On its last legs: Horse racing in S’pore to end in 2024

This marks the end of over 180 years of horse racing at The Singapore Turf Club.



June 14, 2023

SINGAPORE The club was founded in 1842 as the Singapore Sporting Club by Scottish merchant William Henry Macleod Read and a group of horse racing enthusiasts.

Its first race was held in February 1843 to mark the 24th anniversary of Singapore’s founding by Sir Stamford Raffles. The prize money was $150.

The inaugural Singapore Cup was watched by more than 300 spectators. Race day was declared a national holiday.

In 1924, Singapore Sporting Club changed its name to Singapore Turf Club, and the first Singapore Gold Cup was held that year.

Over the years, big races with top-dollar prizes have featured top horses and jockeys from around the world, with British royalty and tycoons in attendance.

Sprinklers watering the racetrack at the Singapore Turf Club. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Singapore Turf Club remains the only horse racing club and authorised operator for horse racing activities in Singapore.

The $500 million Kranji racetrack was designed with the latest in-turf innovation and technology. There are 41 light masts installed around the course, which allowed the club to introduce night racing in 1999.

STC boasts stables with air-conditioned rooms, swimming pools for the horses, and Singapore’s only equine veterinary hospital. Its riding centre hosted the 2010 Youth Olympic Games’ equestrian show-jumping event.

The racetrack, as seen from a HDB flat in Woodlands. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

At the club’s peak, thousands of horse-racing enthusiasts would pack the grandstands on race day.

But horse racing’s popularity here has waned. Between 2010 and 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, the club saw its average race day attendance decline from about 11,000 spectators to some 6,000.

When the racecourse reopened to the public in April 2022, just 2,600 showed up on the average race day – less than half the pre-Covid-19 attendance.

Last Monday, STC announced that it would close in October 2024.

The five-storey grandstand, with both outdoor seating and indoor (pictured), has a total capacity of 30,000. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

More spectators flocked to STC’s races on Sunday, days after the club’s closure was announced. But the 3,000 or so visitors were a fraction of the grandstand’s 30,000 capacity. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Race attendance has dwindled over the years, and loyalists are mostly senior citizens now. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Punters catching the track action on TV screens in the air-conditioned comfort of the public grandstand. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

The races still draw an avid pool of punters, but nothing compared to during the club’s heyday, when the grandstand would be packed with spectators jockeying for a good view during the race. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Racing magazines like the one this man is holding provide information about the races as well as racing tips to guide punters. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

A horse named Gold Legend reacts as jockey Simon Kok climbs on at the parade ring, before heading to the racetrack. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Jockey Ronnie Stewart and a horse named Sheesh make their way to the turf track from the parade ring on Sunday. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Trainer Stephen Gray hugs a stable hand in triumph at a victory ceremony after his horse Wecando (with jockey Marc Lerner atop) won the ninth race on Sunday. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Tossed betting slips on the floor, like confetti of hopes lost. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

A tower at the Singapore Turf Club. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

A lone rider putting in the paces during a trackwork session last Tuesday. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

A barrier trial last Tuesday. These regular mini races are held as part of race preparation. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The ticketing booths at the Singapore Turf Club. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Benches stand barren next to the racetrack at the Singapore Turf Club. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Stabled on the sidelines are two inanimate equine residents. The fate of the 700 race horses stabled at STC is still uncertain. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

STC will gradually say goodbye to its 350 or so employees after it shutters in late 2024. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The sun will set on the Singapore Turf Club in October 2024 when it holds its final race. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

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