I don’t make a regular habit of betting on the ponies, maybe once every five years or so, but during our visit to Hong Kong earlier this year, I decided it was high time to stop by and check out the track action at Sha Tin. I’ve spent more than six months of my life in Hong Kong, spread out over numerous one-week to 30-day visits, but had never visited the race track before.

So this time we went…but because I was either having a pre-senior moment, or because I’d just spent a good spell in mainland China, where this probably wouldn’t have been a problem, it didn’t occur to me that children ages 2 and 4 wouldn’t be allowed into the raceway proper. No one under 18, for that matter. Silly me. What’s the world coming to?

But all was not a total loss. The kindly security guard who intercepted us as we were coming through the entryway turnstiles let us know that there is a public trackside viewing area down to the right of the main stands. From there, you (and your kids) can still catch a decent view of part of the track. You just can’t bet on the ponies down there. At least not using the track’s sanctioned betting system, that is. But if you and some other chap who has also brought his kids along want to wager a few fiveskies between yourselves on the sly, that’s left entirely to your discretion. Just make sure the authorities–and more importantly, your wives–don’t catch you.

On a more serious note, don’t even think of betting with illegal bookmakers in HK. The maximum fine for that is HK$30,000 and nine months in the slammer.

Here are some pics and videos from the outing…

Getting the turf ready:

Checking out the scene:

Horses!:

The crowd goes wild:

I wonder if the people living in those apartment towers across the way can phone in their bets then watch the races with binoculars and telescopes:

A tiny bit of grainy video footage:

For a “What Web Sites Looked Like in 1996” flashback, you might like to visit the race track’s own Web site.