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Hong Kong Celebrates Year of the Horse

A portrait of Akeed Mofeed at Sha Tin. Photo: Kenneth Chan

Energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able - the horse holds a special place in Chinese astrology and mysticism and those born in its year are said to carry some of the same characteristics of their zodiac symbol.

Across many cultures the horse is a symbol of freedom, power, instinct and intelligence, and is an animal some would argue domesticated man - not the other way around.

For around 6,000 years horses have ploughed fields, transported man and taken him into battle.

And of all the breeds of horses, the thoroughbred - the racehorse - is the most famous. It is an athletic marvel selectively bred for speed and stamina.

The thoroughbred is the star at the centre of the highly successful Hong Kong Jockey Club. On Sunday, on the third day of the Year of the Horse, 100,000 fans will pack into Sha Tin to gamble on 11 races - splurging more than HK$1.5 billion and screaming for their equine athletes to give their all - and more.

Well-known Italian horse breeder and trainer Frederico Tesio famously said: "A horse gallops with its lungs, perseveres with its heart and wins with its character." The thoroughbred has a body built to run, combined with a hard-wired will to win.

"They crave competition," Hong Kong's 13-time champion Douglas Whyte said of the best racehorses. "They long to run faster and be competitive - they try to win. It's instilled in them."

All modern thoroughbreds can be traced back to three foundation stallions - the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian - oriental breeds imported to mate with English mares in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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