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Published: January 6th 2020
This horse was a winner on New Year's Day
I like horse racing and I like Singapore, so going out to the Singapore Turf Club on New Year’s for the Prosperity Stakes sounds like a good time.
Kranji Racetrack is out on the northern edge of the island of Singapore, but you can get there on the MRT for just a couple of dollars. There are forests and lush green lawns out there; a very different vibe from the downtown core. And once you get there, you can pay for entrance to the track with your MRT transit card.
I’d been to Kranji for the Prosperity Stakes about five years ago, and I remembered it as a fun time. I paid my admission to the track with my E-Z Link MRT card, and just inside the gate a nice lady was giving out packets of hong bao. A hong bao is an envelope, almost always red or gold, with money in it. It is given to family and friends at Chinese New Year, and other occasions like weddings, as a symbol of good luck and to ward off evil. She gave me an extra packet so that I would have lots of luck.
Chinese, perhaps unfairly, have been stereotyped as great gamblers, and also as rather superstitious people. The last time I was here, on the off-chance that good luck symbols work, the Singapore Turf Club put every sort of good luck charm it could think of on display.
The first thing you saw when you entered the gates was a life-sized statue of a spotted horse pulling a cart with heaped with gold (well, gold-colored at any rate) ingots. Spotted horses are considered to bring good fortune, and the implication is that a horse will bring cart loads of riches to you. Just past the horse was a sculpture of numbers, with the number eight being bigger and bolder than the others. In Chinese, the word or “eight” and the word for “wealth” sound similar. In Cantonese, “eight’ and “fortune” also sound similar.
However, this year there was no spotted horse, and no wagon full of gold (colored) ingots. The sculpture of the “Wind Horse” was also missing. Now I’m not superstitious, and I don’t believe in good luck charms (though I have a few) so I didn’t take it as a bad sign, but I did kind of miss
seeing the spotted horse.
Once inside, I headed straight to the paddock. The paddock here is huge compared to the paddocks that I have seen in other places. It is covered to protect man and beast from the elements, and the viewing area around it is banked so everyone can get a good view of the horses. The grooms who handle the horses before the race are all dressed alike, and the trainers all wear ties.
The racing form and the bet slips at Kranji are similar but very, very different from what I’m used to in the US. Once I finally figured out how to read the racing form, and how to mark the bet slips, I made my bet on a horse called “The Brotherhood,” and headed to the grandstand to watch the race.
I remember sitting in an air-conditioned grandstand on the second floor the last time I had been there. I had a great view of the track, with the added benefit of not being out in the hot, sticky humidity. But this time when I went looking for the air conditioned grandstand I found it all closed off. Bummer! I asked one
of the security people, and she told me it had been closed for a couple of years, but she didn’t know why.
I found a place outside that was in a sliver of shade and tried to watch the race. Now the actual track at Kranji is quite long, and it is separated from the viewers by hedges and a horse trail; from ground level it is almost impossible to see the horses on the backstretch. But they do have an enormous video screen, and from there I watched the horse I bet on lose.
I sighed, and hoped that losing the Prosperity Stakes on New Year’s Day was not a sign of the year to come.
There is a 16 hour time difference between Singapore and my home in southern California, and a horse I own a tiny share of was also running on New Year’s Day. I wouldn't be there to see him run, but with the magic of the internet I was able to watch the replay. It wasn’t the Prosperity Stakes, but my horse won – and looked good doing it. The money I won on my horse more than made up for
any loss at Kranji, so I guess it was a pretty good day after all. Possibly useful information:
• The closest MRT station to the track is Kranji on the North South line.
• Programs, called “The Punter’s Way” are sold right outside the track, and include past performances of all the horses. You do not get a free program with admission.
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