We’ve got 4D, Toto, and casinos for those who are itching for a thrill, but people of the past could only rely on traditional forms of entertainment like sports betting. One of the most popular options was horse racing – evidently so given its practice in Singapore dates back to 1824.
With the recent news of the closure of the Singapore Turf Club in 2024 in order to make way for future land developments. In memory of this iconic landmark, we break down all you need to know about its 180-year history.
Singapore Sporting Club in the 1840s.
Image credit: Singapore Turf Club
Singapore Turf Club was initially founded as Singapore Sporting Club by a Scotland-born man, William Henry Macleod Read, and a band of horse racing hobbyists. Interestingly enough, its first location was at Farrer Park.
Its first race was to mark the 24th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles’s founding, and it attracted 300 spectators and a $150 prize money.
Singapore Turf Club in the 1970s.
Image credit: Roots Singapore
Over the decades, horse racing became the it sport amongst the wealthy, attracting a main demographic of Europeans, Malays, and Chinese. As horse racing’s fame continued to skyrocket in Singapore, the club had to relocate to Bukit Timah in 1933, and then again to Kranji in 1999, to accommodate its large audience. The current racecourse in Kranji has a 30,000-spectator capacity and a 5-storey grandstand valued at around $500 million.
Moreover, the sport also managed to catch the attention of major sponsors, including Singapore Airlines. In 2001, they organised a Group 1 status race – the most prestigious title that any thoroughbred race could hold – with a grand prize of $3 million.
Consequently, Singapore Turf Club’s almost bicentennial history also means a fair share of milestones. And because we’re such history buffs, we found a few of the most memorable ones:
Queen Elizabeth II presenting The Queen Elizabeth II Cup to its first winner at the Singapore Turf Club.
Image credit: Royal Collection Trust
A whopping 26,000 people showed up that day for a glimpse of the Queen, Prince Philip, and Princess Anne. The Queen Elizabeth II Cup was inaugurated that year, and has been happening annually in October since then.
True Melody with jockey Ismadi Ismail and Tan Sri Tan Chin Tuan.
Image credit: Singapore Turf Club
Tuneful Melody won the Raffles Cup – an inspirational moment for locally bred horses.
Image credit: KF1 Karting Circuit
The club upped their racing game with the launch of KF1 Karting Circuit (from $28/pax). Designed by F1 track architect Herman Tilke, it features the only circuit in the world with dual-direction tracks. Satisfy your need for speed, no matter rain or shine, with their go-karts that go up to 50km/h.
For now, there’s no news about them moving yet, so you can come down whenever – as long as it’s within its operating hours. Each session entails a 10-minute ride. No driver’s license is required for 30km/h carts, but if you’d like to increase your speed to 50km/h, you’ll need to hold one.
Walk-ins are accepted but it’s advisable to book online prior to avoid a queue.
Address: 1 Turf Club Avenue, 738078
Opening hours: Tue-Wed & Fri-Sun 1pm-9pm | Thu 1pm-4pm (Closed on Mondays)
Contact: 6891 1191 | KF1 Karting Circuit’s website
Image credit: Cheval Cafe Bar Bistro
For those who are keen on horse-watching, consider a leisurely meal at Cheval Cafe. Their al-fresco seating area allows for a clear view of the horse range, where you can spot equine therapy go-ers or trainers taking them out for a ride.
Start off with a light savoury broth like Moules Mariniere, then dig into signatures such as Char-Grill Kurobuta Pork Rack and Cheval Ultimate Wagyu Beef Burger. If you’ve still got stomach space to spare, their Salted Egg Yolk Lava Cake is a must-try.
Address: 1 Equestrian Walk, Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre, Singapore 737863
Opening hours: Sat-Thu 11am-11pm | Fri 11am-12am
Contact: 6269 0918 | Cheval Cafe’s website
Join a horse riding class at Bukit Timah Saddle Club, which recently moved from its old home. Established in 1951 in Bukit Timah, they’ve got decades of equestrian experience under their belt. There are classes ranging from beginner courses to intermediate ones, making the horse riding experience less intimidating and more accessible to new learners.
Image credit: @bukittimahsaddleclub via Instagram
If you’ve got your mind made up about getting serious, consider becoming a Club Member (from $6,480) for exclusive perks like private riding lessons, horse ownership, and participation in in-house and inter-club competitions. For those who don’t see the need for horse ownership yet, consider the Annual Term Membership (from $2,200/year, excluding monthly subscription fees).
Address: 1 Turf Club Avenue, Stable Block 113 & 116, Singapore 738078
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 7am-11am, 3.30pm-6pm (Closed on Mondays)
Contact: 6466 2264 | Bukit Timah Saddle Club’s website
Though the demolition is a pity, it’s not too late to explore this quaint area. We don’t yet know what will happen to the 700 horses living here as there hasn’t been news about their relocation. However, Singapore Turf Club will continue hosting races till October 2024 – so you can even catch them without having to bet. For now, all the major events at the club remain unaffected – and there’s almost one held every month.
If you want to be a part of this historical moment, mark your calendars. Singapore Turf Club’s last race, the 100th Grand Singapore Gold Cup, will be held on 5th October 2024.
Getting here: Alight at Kranji MRT and take the exit facing the mall.
Address: 1 Turf Club Avenue, Singapore 738078
Opening hours: By appointment only on non-race days, call 6879 1000 to enquire
Contact: 6879 1000 | Singapore Turf Club’s website
For more blast from the past content:
Cover image adapted from: Roots Singapore, Cheval Cafe Bar Bistro
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