Ashforth's Angles: staggering sums on offer at Sha Tin | Horse Racing |

Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong

Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong offers huge riches

  PICTURE: Hugh Routledge  

 By David Ashforth 6:01PM 29 JAN 2017 

SHA TIN and Southwell have something in common. Their cards both open with Class 5 handicaps but whereas the first race at Southwell (1.30pm) is worth £3,881 to the winner the opening race at Sha Tin’s Sunday meeting (4.30am Monday here) is worth £37,524.

None of the other five races at Southwell are worth more than £3,881 whereas all the other ten races at Sha Tin are worth a lot more than £37,524.

The four Class 4 handicaps are worth £50,031 to the winner, the three Class 3 handicaps £73,558, the Class 2 handicap £104,232 and the Class 1 handicap £148,903.

Then there are the day’s highlights, the Group 2 Centenary Sprint Cup worth £476,489 to the winner and the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup worth £595,611.

Adam Kirby, flying high in Britain, would probably have swapped his five rides at Southwell for Neil Callan’s eight at Sha Tin, including rides in both Group races, or even Oisin Murphy’s four rides or Silvestre de Sousa’s three.

The special administrative region of Hong Kong is the only part of China where gambling is legal and the Hong Kong Jockey Club has a monopoly of legal gambling including, since 2003, gambling on football.

Yet there is a huge amount of illegal gambling in Hong Kong. A billion is 1,000 million. Last year a study by Oxford Economics estimated illegal turnover equivalent to £51 billion and net revenues of £1.2bn for illegal operators. That compares with £21bn and £1.1 bn respectively for the HKJC in 2015-16.

The figures are staggering, given that there were only 84 race meetings in Hong Kong that year. Racing accounted for £11bn of the £21bn legal turnover with football attracting £9bn and the lottery £0.9bn.

Of the amount left after punters had been paid, the government took £2bn, charities another £0.4bn and the HKJC was left with £1.1bn.

No wonder the prize-money is good. Maybe we should pay more attention to Sha Tin and less to Southwell, or even Ayr and Plumpton.

Not Cheltenham, though, even if Saturday’s win prize money averaged £27,428 compared with Sha Tin’s £157,593.

I’ve only been to Sha Tin once and I’m a bit out of touch. There are trainers whose last names are Ng, Ho and So and jockeys whose last names are Ng, Ho, Mo and So. Straight away you know that you’re not at Southwell.

There is also a jockey called Karis Teetan who has nine rides.Teetan’s story is extraordinary. Born in Mauritius, his father worked all day in the sugar cane fields.

Teetan went to school but more often went to ride horses on the beach. When he was 14 his father borrowed money to pay for Karis to go to South Africa’s National Jockey Academy.

He could not speak English but he could ride horses and in 2008 became champion apprentice.

Five years later Teetan moved to Hong Kong, rode 50 winners in his first season and won the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Cup on Thunder Fantasy in 2015.

It can be done.

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