Thursday, October 23, 2014

horsing around

We were planning to enjoy the opening night of the Happy Valley races from the comfort of our home but then we received an invitation to a private box. Looking out the window while cooking our own dinner vs private balcony with good friends and a buffet...it was a no brainer.

Though we had previously taken part in a tour of the facilities, SB and I signed on again when a tour was offered because we needed to stretch our legs after gorging ourselves on oysters (me) and roast beef (SB). No sooner had we entered the area where the horses are trotted around, the sky opened up. A few fat drops of rain quickly turned into a deluge. Our group ran in the direction that we had come from but three of us followed some people in the other direction toward a closer shelter.

It didn't take long to realize our mistake. We had blindly followed some horse owners to the area where the jockeys dismount after the race ends. We were surrounded by grooms who were quickly and efficiently removing tacks and escorting the horses toward waiting trailers. We watched a jockey violently throw his helmet across the ground and storm away, apparently disgusted with his performance (or that of his horse). Owners were shaking hands and retreating to their private boxes while we stood by awkwardly. We three interlopers plastered ourselves to the wall until the area was fairly clear again and attempted to exit out the nearest door but the guard refused to let us into the area, probably because it was an owner only area. We tried to go back where we came from but other horses were being trotted out and we would  have had to cut through them. We went back to the guard at the owner area asking to please let us just pass through and exit but he was an input only device. He only cared that he was checking for owner badges for entry into the room and it was not his concern if three people were tramping around with the racehorses five meters outside of his post.

Eventually our shenanigans caught the eye of a race marshal who had just returned from his shift and he kindly indicated that we should continue to tramp with the horses through the tunnel where we could either be loaded onto a horse trailer and whisked away or scurry out of the tunnel. We chose to scurry out of the tunnel and exit the racecourse. Then we hugged the building and avoided most of the rain until we found the correct entrance and arrived back at the box. Others in the tour group returned five minutes later, soaking wet after having had to walk around the perimeter of the building because they had lost our tour guide and were not allowed to reenter the area that our group had been brought through. The problem was evident: HKJC workers were doing their jobs and no one was willing to do more than his job. Without the tour guide as an escort, the entire group was literally tossed out into the rain.

The tour guide eventually returned with those who had managed to located him and apologized profusely although none of this was his fault. It was a near impossible task to gather the twenty of us together amongst hundreds of people running for cover. To make up for it, we were given lots more free booze so that by the end of the night no one cared that we were soggy and rumpled. My only regret is that I didn't take pictures of my up close and personal encounter with the horses. They were gorgeous.

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