It's a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Bangkok. Concentrating hard on their favourite steeds, the crowd on the stand - most of whom are binocular-attached punters - rises to their feet with a deafening roar once 'Chok Dee' (Lucky) reaches the 'bell lap' (the final lap of a race). The commentator's voice reaches a near-hysterical pitch as the excitement mounts in the Royal Bangkok Sports Club stadium... Although not quite a scene one would expect to witness in Bangkok, horse-racing events do have their fair share of followers, and offers an exhilarating experience.
Reserved specially for the hi-so (high society) types, these prestigious sport clubs provide a recreational playground for the country's elite, where members have exclusive rights to enjoy a variety of sport facilities such as Olympic-standard swimming pools, golf courses, badminton, tennis and squash courts, horseback riding and gymnasiums. While some clubs still welcome new members (long waiting lists!), other clubs have stopped accepting new members. The only way to obtain a membership is if someone in your family is already a member.
Betting on Horses is not Taboo
The general public, however, are allowed to go in for horse-racing events, which are held every second Sunday (the venue alternates between the Royal Bangkok Sports Club and the Royal Turf Club). Betting is allowed, and it begins at 50 baht on a 'win-place' basis only (you collect if the horse you bet on comes in first. If you wager to 'place', your horse must come in first or second to collect). Incidentally, gambling is illegal in Thailand, but betting on horses seems to be the only exception to the rule.
Horse-racing first began in Thailand 100 years ago when King Rama V returned from his state visit to Europe in 1897, and civil servants and students who studied in Europe organised a horse-racing event at the Phra Main Ground (Sanam Luang as it is called nowadays) as an act of allegiance to his return. This gave rise to the popularity of Western style horse-racing in Thailand. Not long after, His Majesty bestowed a piece of land to be used as the country's first racecourse, which was the birth of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.
The objective of His Majesty and the Club was to introduce and promote the quality of horse-racing and breeding in Thailand, while providing sports facilities of international standards for Thais and expatriates. Occupying a prime spot on Henri Dunant Road, opposite Chulalongkorn University, the prestigious and private Royal Bangkok Sports Club holds horse-racing events that are open to the public every other Sunday. The club is also the centre for horse training and testing. There are approximately 26 races each year, and four celebrated cups for the competitions: the Royal Darby Cup, Ram Rakop Cup, Phraya Pradipatpubal Cup, and the Chairman's Cup.
Where to see Horse-Racing in Bangkok
Royal Bangkok Sports Club (RBSC)
- Location: Henri Dunant Road, north of Rama IV Road. Horse racing one Sunday per month.
- Tel: +66 (0)2 251 0181
Royal Turf Club of Thailand
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 15:00. Horse racing one Sunday per month.
- Location: Phitsanulok Road, Suan Chitralada Sub-District, Dusit
- Tel: +66 (0)2 628 1810-5
Other Exclusive Sports Clubs
RBSC Polo Club
- Location: 18 Soi Polo, Wireless Road
- Tel: +66 (0)2 252 6731
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 21:00
- Location: 100 Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road, Lak Si
- Tel: +66 (0)2 955 005