As many times as I have been to Sha Tin and Happy Valley in Hong Kong, and as much as I enjoy those tracks, I decided to change things up a bit this weekend and try something new. I jumped on the TurboJet Ferry and traveled over to Macau to check out their racing scene.
This weekend was one of the biggest cards of racing in Macau’s race season, headlined by the Macau Derby, the second leg of their Triple Crown series. I have been to Macau several times, but this was the first time I had come to watch the ponies.
My day began with a late breakfast and visit to The Venitian casino and hotel to squeeze in a few rolls of craps. During my time there, I started chatting with the chip/dice managers and asking about the racing scene in Macau. To my surprise they had little knowledge. This was a startling contrast to Hong Kong where the racing scene is a way of life. Macau represents the city with the largest income of gambling revenue in the world (nearly 2.5x the yearly take of Las Vegas), and I guess I was expecting horse racing to be a local favorite. Even with less than expected knowledge from the casino dealers, my excitement for the races was not deterred.
After a short cab ride to the track from the casino, I tried to go into the Jockey Club reserved area, which usually requires a higher admission fee, but has slightly nicer amenities and offers seating close to the finish line. To my disdain, I was escorted out of the area for not meeting the dress code. I guess my tee shirt, shorts, and backwards LA Dodgers hat was a little too low class… After reaching the general admission seating, I was pleased that the cost to enter the track was free given the importance of the day’s races.
Taking in the environment of the track, it was very different from that of Hong Kong. Where I was used to seating being at a premium and where the betting windows are flooded with people, there were not many spectators on hand for Macau Derby day. The track was beautiful, with a lake in the infield, and the dominating skyline of the towering casino resorts in the background.
I had no handicapping forms in English, so I was doing my best to interpret the program that was given to me, and I apparently chose poorly for the first 3 races. The turf condition was listed as heavy, and the winners of all the races had either wired the field or sat just off the pace. This was the best handicapping tool I had, given the language barrier.
When it came time for the 9 furlong Macau Derby, the bettor’s favorite was Elderly Paradise, but from my interpretation of the forms, he liked to sit mid pack, and was not usually up toward the front of the race. For this reason, I picked the young gun Absolutely Win, who was making his third career start and had won his previous 2 races in wire-to-wire fashion. Lucky Jia, the winner of the Macau 2000 Guineas, the first leg of the Macau Triple Crown, was the bettor’s second choice.
The Number 2 horse in the photo above is Elderly Paradise, and the Number 3 is Absolutely Win
When the bell went off, much to my surprise, Elderly Paradise shot to the front of the pack like a missile. Absolutely Win was in perfect position sitting just outside of him about a half-length back. Now it was just going to be a question of if Absolutely Win could handle the longer distance, as his previous races did not stretch him beyond 7 furlongs.
All in all, my experience at the Macau Jockey Club was a great one. I got to learn about horses I would have likely never heard of and watch a complete romp at the top level of Macau racing. Given that the scene is not as popular as I was expecting, and after some short attempts of research on the horses running in yesterday’s meet, I am not confident I will ever hear about Elderly Paradise again. It is very rare that a horse from Macau breaks into the international scene. But given the dominating performance of Elderly Paradise, he has set a lasting impression that will allow me to remember his name and my Macau racing experience forever.
Coming into the stretch, Elderly Paradise taught a stern lesson to the novice Absolutely Win, and pulled away with ease. But, where it looked like it was Absolutely Win moving backwards, it was actually Elderly Paradise pulling away. In flashy style, one that I can easily compare to Bodemeister’s recent Arkansas Derby, he opened up 12 lengths on the second place horse wiring the field in 1:53.4 for the 1800m race. It was as dominating performance as I have ever seen at any track, and even though my choice finished a game third by a nose, I could do nothing but applaud the performance of the 4 yr old gelding, Elderly Paradise.