Land-Strapped Singapore to Lose Live Horse Racing in 2024

Posted on: June 5, 2023, 03:10h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2023, 03:22h.

The Singapore Turf Club (STC) will hold its final race in October 2024, signaling an end to 181 years of racing in the city-state. The club’s Singapore Racetrack in Kranji, northwestern Singapore, will be steamrolled by the government to make way for multipurpose housing, according to an STC press statement Monday.

Singapore Turf Club, horse racing
“Hong Kong Great,” ridden by Mark Zahara winning last year’s Grand Singapore Gold Cup, above. The famous race will be one of the last run in Singapore on the occasion of its 100th birthday. (Image: STC)

October’s final race meet will include STC’s famous Grand Singapore Gold Cup on its centennial anniversary.

A joint statement by Singapore’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of National Development said Monday that the government continually reviews its land-use plans to “meet today’s needs while ensuring there is sufficient land for future generations.”

As a city-state, land is scarce in Singapore and officials have determined the track will be “holistically master planned to better meet our future land use needs.”

The bad news was delivered to racing industry stakeholders by STC president and CEO Irene Lim at a meeting at Kranji on Monday.

The STC was founded by Scottish merchant William Henry Mcleod Read in 1842 when Singapore was an important trading post under British rule. It has organized racing continually since then, bar a five-year hiatus during the Japanese occupation during World War II.

The nearest live racetrack to Singapore is the Selangor Turf Club in Kuala Lumpur, about 200 miles away.

‘Smooth Exit’

The government has pledged to work to support industry stakeholders in the lead-up to the closure, including the STC and the Tote Board, which handles the club’s betting revenue. STC employees will receive retrenchment packages, while racehorse trainers and owners will receive support for horse maintenance and exportation.

“We are saddened by the decision of the government to close the Club. At the same time, we understand the land needs of Singapore, including housing and other potential uses such as leisure and recreation,” STC Chairman Mr Niam Chiang Meng said in a statement.

We will do our best to ensure business as usual for the Club until our final race meeting. Concurrently, we will work with our stakeholders to ensure a smooth exit for local horse racing and make the necessary preparations for the estate to be handed over to the government by March 2027,” he added.

As the sole custodian of horse racing in Singapore, the STC has strived to improve the popularity of the sport amid the dwindling in-person attendance at the racetrack that ultimately contributed to the decision.

Churchill Downer

The decline in the popularity of live racing is a global phenomenon. Where once, in many jurisdictions across the world, it was the only form of gambling entertainment available, it has now largely been replaced by alternative betting opportunities, from casinos to lotteries, as is the case in Singapore.

It’s also viewed with outright hostility by animal rights groups. One of the most famous racetracks in the US, Churchill Downs, announced on Friday it will halt its spring meet following the death of a dozen horses in the past month alone.