Well worth a visit: The Singapore Turf Club
Another item not at the top of the list in most guidebooks is a visit to the Singapore Turf Club race course. But... if you're in Singapore on a race day, it's quite an experience!
Horse racing was introduced to Singapore by the British during colonial times, and it's certainly drawn quite a following in the years since. Come race day, you'll find crowds of people heading towards the Kranji race course, home to the Singapore Turf Club.
It was only since 1960 that members of the public were allowed to attend races at the Singapore Turf Club. Before that, races were restricted to club members and owners.
A Brief History
The Singapore Turf Club is the oldest club still in existence in Singapore. It began as the Singapore Sporting Club in 1842. Its earliest grounds were built in what is today Farrer Park. The first races were held there on 23 February 1843. The prize money? $150 (a great deal of money in those days). In 1924, the Singapore Turf Club (STC) got its name to reflect its racing activities. As racing became more popular, the facilities at Farrer Park became inadequate, so in 1933, the STC moved to a new course at Bukit Timah. In 1999, the Singapore Turf Club moved again, this time to Kranji.
View from Level 1 (video by Riversun on YouTube)
Exploring the Singapore Turf Club
Singapore races are held on selected days each week. Races on Wednesdays and Fridays are held as night racing, starting from 6.30 pm. Races on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays are held during the day and starts 1.45 pm.
If you're planning to go, check the Singapore race dates. Try to choose a date with major feature races if you can, as races where winners can earn huge prize money and prestigious cups add to the excitement.
Your cheapest option is the Lower Grandstand (on Level 1). Non-air-conditioned, but, hey, it's only $3. This is where the majority of the punters congregate each race day, so if you want to soak up the atmosphere, this is where you want to be. You'll be able to go right up to the rails surrounding the course, so you can see the horses thundering down the tracks. On the other hand, the air is absolutely thick with smoke. So, unless you're a smoker yourself, or have really super-resilient lungs, my advice is to go for the next option, which is...
The Upper Grandstand (on Level 2). Costs $7. There's air-conditioning (very important in hot and humid Singapore), a better view of the track, and NO SMOKING.
With a ticket to Level 2, you can always go down to Level 1 to check out the action if you want to (There are gates to get into Upper Grandstand, but none to enter the Lower Grandstand that I could see).
You'll find that the serious punters turn up early to reserve the seats giving the best view of the finish line by placing newspapers, often the racing pages, over the backs of seats. You'll see them at their seats during races to cheer on their favourites, and no doubt the ones they put the most money on, right to the winning position!
If you suddenly hear boisterous shouting and cheering, but can't see any horses at all on the track, look at the screens. The Singapore Turf Club takes bets for races in other countries (particularly Malaysia) and shows simulcast of those races on the giant outdoor screen and the many monitors/screens round the grandstands.
Of course, if you want to see the races in style, there's always this option... @Hibiscus (on Level 3). It'll only set you back $20. I haven't actually been up there myself, but according to a recent Timeout article, the ticket gives you access to a bar and the Owners' Lounge, and seats in a reserved booth with an LCD monitor. There's also a restaurant there.
On specific race days, the Turf Club may also offer special packages which includes meals, entry, door gifts, etc. To find out about these, email the Turf Club (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you're going to the Upper or Lower Grandstand, the dress code is casual (no jogging shorts and singlets allowed, though).
If you're planning to go to @Hibiscus on Level 3, they specify smart casual (tattered jeans, shorts, bermudas, T-shirts without collars and/or sleeves, slippers & sandals not allowed).
If you have an invitation to other sections, then check out the more detailed dress code at the Turf Club website.
The Parade RingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Don't miss out on...
Parade Ring. The is where the horses are saddled before a race. Handlers lead the horses round the ring a few times; I guess the idea is to let punters have a look at the horses. There's also an outdoor screen at the Parade Ring, so that's another place people can follow the races from.
Horsewalk. This is a glass-sided walkway linking the Parade Ring with the tracks. Go there just before a race, and you'll see the jockeys walking into the ring to get onto their horses, and then riding their horses out to the tracks. You get a really good idea of just how small in stature those jockeys are when you see them up close like that.
Go on, have a little flutter...
You'll most likely enjoy yourself more if you go with some money to bet on the races, money you can afford to lose, of course. Think of it as part of the admission price. With your money riding on the race, you'll find the races much more exciting. (A bit of advice: It's best to decide beforehand how much you want to spend on betting, and don't go beyond that. If you make money, fine and good. But once you lose what you decided to spend in the beginning, just stop betting.)
There's a betting guide on the Turf Club's website that you can study beforehand. You'll probably need some help with marking out the coupons, and the staff there can help you with that.
My Own Day at the Races
I went with a group of friends earlier this year. One of my friends suggested going for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup race day. Great idea, as it turns out. Ladies were given free admission that day!
We started off exploring the Upper Grandstand. The logical place to start, as it was a really muggy afternoon, and the upper level had air-conditioning (We did explore the Lower Grandstand later in the evening. My main impression - choking smoke).
At the upper grandstand, the punters reserve seats by draping newspapers over the back of the seats. By the time we got there, all the best seats had been ‘reserved' that way. So what else were we to do? We plonked ourselves down on the steps between the seats, determined to get a good view of the finish line. After just one race, though, we made a quick get-away from that area. The punters were definitely showing signs of being annoyed at having to step around us to get up to the betting window. Never get between an addict and his fix, right?
Our group ended up spending something like five hours at the races. It's so easy to get caught up in the thrill of picking winners. At first, we pooled together our money to bet on the races, and picked by the extremely scientific method of names that sounded strong and swift ;) Surprisingly, that worked quite well. Beginners' luck, I guess.
A few races later, though, a couple of our friends were getting really serious. You could just see their frowns of concentration as they studied the racing pages. They got more and more intent on getting their own bets in before each race started. And to think that they didn't know a thing about betting on horse races before we got there! It was a bit scary, how intense it all got. On the plus side, their enthusiasm added to the fun, made the rest of us feel more a part of the whole scene instead of being just "those pesky tourists" exclaiming over everything.
We spent most of the afternoon sitting in front of the food court area at the Upper Grandstand. It's not that crowded there, you're near food and drinks, and it's just as fun to see the races from there. If I were to go again, one place I'd definitely spend more time at, though, is the Parade Ring. I'd get there early, and find a seat near the front so that I can see the horses up close, and I'd do that before heading for the Grandstands.
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