By Hans Ebert
When, for some of us longtime Hong Kong Belongers, our parents, and those whom we respectfully called “aunties” and “uncles”, had the clout to get us 15-year-olds into places like the Craigengower Cricket Club Box (CCC) at Happy Valley Racecourse- a very big deal at the time- it was an invaluable education into the ins and outs of the early days of horse racing in Hong Kong. And listening to these elders speak knowingly about who they knew in the riding ranks, and how the sport could be choreographed, had the CCC and neighbouring private Boxes abuzz with conspiracy theories, especially after a race had been run. By then, our HK$50 pocket money had gone with Donald and his “troosers”. But, as they say, no worries. We were in the school of racing.
For a kid new to the sport, it was better than watching a thriller. These were real life mysteries with an intoxicating mélange of characters, some of whom became heroes while others eventually became, and still remain, friends. Many life lessons can be learned on a racetrack along with many tricks of the trade.
When, for example, the Quartet bet was first introduced, there were times when the first four runners crossed the line in Indian file with almost two lengths separating each horse, so there would be absolutely no margin for error when it came to guaranteeing the result.