The Shanghai Race Club (Shanghai Art Museum)The perimeter of today’s People’s Square once defined old Shanghai’s race course, where millionaires rode their steeds and their wives would wager fans and sun bonnets because betting money was too, too vulgar. The Shanghai Race Club was their clubhouse and epicenter, a streamlined neoclassical building whose clock tower (“Big Bertie”) still overlooks Nanjing Road.The Shanghai Race Club was one of the main centres of Shanghai social life – firms like Jardines raced Mongolian ponies in the firm’s name, foreign courtesans had their own stands and millionaires like Victor Sassoon popped Champagne and dined on stuffed quail in their own tiffin rooms.There were Turkish baths, bowling lanes and horse heads on the banister – and plenty of entertainment (such as the inebriated socialite who slipped into a gigantic punchbowl one memorable Christmas). But ultimately, it was a democratic institution, thanks to the SRC’s cooperative lottery system, and the heyday of the private owner-trainer-rider. Each autumn, the ponies came in from Mongolia, and at 7pm on the designated day, in the coffee room, each subscriber drew a pony at a cost of £20. The raw material of these “subscription griffins” was never very good, so training often began at 6am the very next day!
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231 Nanjing West Road, Shanghai 200001 China
Written June 1, 2013
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