Macau Bids Farewell to Horse Racing

In a bittersweet farewell, the Macau Jockey Club (MJC) hosted its final horse races on Saturday, 30 March, marking the end of an era in the cityโ€™s history and officially closing the chapter on animal racing in Macau. Approximately a thousand racegoers, comprising residents and visitors from Hong Kong and mainland China, gathered to witness the historic moment.

Macau Horse Racing Has Been Steadily Declining

Emotions ran high as attendees bid goodbye to the iconic club, with many expressing sadness over its permanent closure. The decision to terminate the MJCโ€™s concession contract, announced by the government in January amid the 2023-24 racing season, cited years of financial struggles exacerbated by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and declining interest in the sport.ย 

The MJCโ€™s accumulated losses exceed $2.5 billion, dashing any hopes of a quick recovery. These ongoing financial struggles motivated the Macau governmentโ€™s decision to cut its losses. Long-time trainer Geoff Allendorf lamented the stark decline in horse numbers over the years, underscoring the challenges faced by the once-thriving establishment.

In the late 1990s, we were flying, we had 1,200 horses. At the present, weโ€™ve got 200. That says a story in itself.

Geoff Allendorf, trainer

In the wake of the clubโ€™s closure, racehorse owners are grappling with the uncertain future of their animals. Despite receiving subsidies for horse transportation, they face ongoing expenses, highlighting the financial strain imposed by the clubโ€™s demise. The future of the venue itself remains uncertain, as the Macau government has not announced plans for the land.

No Horse Will Be Left Behind

The closure, led by the late Stanley Hoโ€™s fourth wife, Angela Leong, leaves numerous racehorse owners, jockeys, and stable staff facing uncertain futures as they lose their livelihoods. Concerns over the welfare of racehorses and the livelihoods of those involved in the industry have prompted calls for improved compensation plans from the MJC.ย 

The government has mandated the removal of 289 horses stabled at the club by March 2025, urging owners to make necessary arrangements for their animals. Options include transferring ownership to the MJC, with the club assuming responsibility for associated expenses. However, most owners will likely choose to relocate their animals to mainland China or other countries.

The closure of the Macau Jockey Club serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges facing Asiaโ€™s racing industry, echoing the plight of the upcoming Singapore racing closure. While Macauโ€™s decision makes sense from a financial standpoint, the region loses a vibrant piece of its history as fans of the sport must look elsewhere to experience this unique spectacle.