Macau horse racing era comes to an end

Tomorrow is the last race meeting at the Taipa hippodrome.

The era of horse racing in Macau is coming to an end after over 30 years of operation by the Macau Jockey Club (MJC), leaving trainers and owners sadly reminiscing about the glory days.

The government will terminate the club’s license on April 1, citing financial difficulties and failure to meet societal needs.

Racing was established in 1989 under Portuguese rule and boomed in the 1990s under the leadership of casino tycoon Stanley Ho. However, declining attendance and significant financial losses in recent years took their toll on the industry.

The termination comes as a surprise to many in the racing community, given the less than three months’ notice between the January announcement and last races.

Trainers like Joe Lau, who has dedicated his career to the sport in Macau, feels a sense of loss about the end of this chapter.

For three decades, Lau has tied his racehorse training career to the rising and falling fortunes of the Macau Jockey Club, but in a few days it will all be over.

As cited in an AFP report, Lau recalled the glory days but stated he now feels “depressed” about the end of this era.

“(It’s) like you felt the whole house on fire, and it shouldn’t happen this way,” Lau told the media outlet.

“In the late 1990s we were flying, we had 1,200 horses,” said Geoff Allendorf, another long-time trainer in the city.

“At the present time we’ve got 200. That says a story in itself,” he added.

Allendorf considers the closure to have ended with an abrupt announcement, lamenting the impact on the trainers, jockeys, and club employees.

Data from the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) shows that there are  approximately 254 local workers and over 300 non-resident workers currently at the MJC.

There are also concerns about securing new homes for the over 200 horses currently stabled at club facilities by the 2025 deadline.

“Everybody’s still in shock. It will really hit home once we close down,” Allendorf said.

Meanwhile, the group of horse owners have been demanding reasonable compensation from the MCJ for their losses, since the announcement of the closure.

Financial records show declining fortunes, with revenues falling from USD64 million in 2017 to just USD24 million in 2022.

The MJC’s budget shortfalls are part of why the government sees it as no longer viable.

Back in November, the group initiated a 30% reduction in horse betting prize money due to low turnover in recent years.

The mutually agreed decision to end the MJC contract was “realistic,” the Secretary for Administration and Justice, André Cheong, previously said.

Meanwhile, the MJC said the company will “keep the facilities operating for the use of club members” between the end of the races (March 31, 2024) and the final handing of the facilities to the government one year later.

Meanwhile, local animal welfare group Anima Macau believes the club has outlived its purpose.

President Zoe Tang notes contract renewals have focused on outside business interests rather than animal welfare compliance. Anima Macau wants horse racing brought to a close, similar to the end of historic dog racing.

With the termination date now set for April 1, Macau’s long horse racing legacy spanning three decades under the Jockey Club will come to a close.

Trainers, owners and animal advocates have differing views, but the government decree marks the end of this chapter for the sport in this region. Staff Reporter

Categories Headlines Macau