Singapore’s slide: a cautionary tale

The announcement that Singapore racing would cease on October 5, 2024 stunned many but questions remain. Asian Racing Report Editor Michael Cox asks: 'what happens to the horses?', and 'could this happen elsewhere?'

Singapore's 180-year-old racing industry is slated for 'exitinction' in October of 2024. (Photo by Mark Dadswell)

Michael Cox



Singapore racing is effectively over, but the story is not. 

The reaction from some in world racing after Monday’s stunning announcement that the Singapore Turf Club would cease racing after 180 years, in October 2024, was ‘how sad’ but then, far too soon from some, ‘what was your favourite Singapore racing memory?’ 

Maybe blame the attention-seeking and focus-eroding effects of social media, but the reaction ignores the most important elements of this story: humans and horses. 

Beyond the shock is the effect on people’s livelihoods and the welfare of nearly 800 racehorses. 

What now for Singapore racing participants? It speaks to the dedication of the horse people based at Kranji that when they were informed that were effectively being made unemployed with no recourse, the first question asked of CEO Irene Lim wasn’t about financial packages, but rather “what about the horses?” 


Given the callous way Singapore’s human participants have been treated then what are the chances that the horses that have been promised ‘repatriation’ to Australia by club officials will be looked after any better? 

Leaving aside the myriad factors that led to the sport’s demise in the city aside for a moment, the decision to shut racing down with 16 months notice was either rushed, or a long-held objective, carefully plotted for behind the scenes. Maybe it was a combination of both: secretive and poorly executed. 

The other reaction from those outside of Singapore could be again one of sadness, but then, ‘that could never happen here.’ Well, wherever you are in the racing world, the question is worth pondering: ‘why could it not?’

Many of the elements that laid the groundwork for Singapore’s slide into extinction exist elsewhere, to varying degrees: land shortages, a powerful government with an appetite for regulation and an overall decline in racing’s mainstream popularity. 

Then there is a lack of independent media. In Singapore, strict controls govern all media outlets. In most racing jurisdictions it is a commercial compromise that limits what the racing media can and will say. 

This creates an information vacuum and a lack of accountability. Here’s a question for the racing participants reading this, wherever you are: do you know who is on the board of your race club or principal racing authority? What are their backgrounds? Do they have racing’s best interests, and the welfare of its participants – both human and horse – at heart? Do they care more about racing than real estate? Do these representatives report wagering turnover figures? 

As one source told Asian Racing Report of the sports representation on the Singapore Turf Club board and from its executives in recent years. “Generally the club has been mismanaged, and by people with little experience in horse racing, but worse still, no connection to the relevant people in government. The advocacy wasn’t there for us, they were just looking after themselves.”  

Military Attack dominates the Singapore Airlines Cup: star Hong Kong horses were once a common sight at Kranji. (Photo by Getty Images)

In a city with extreme limits on press freedom, a widespread public stigma towards gambling and strong anti-racing elements within society, there was little chance that much-needed advocacy was going to come from outside the racing bubble. That left the participants hung out to dry. 

It seems fanciful that the STC leadership believes that the sport can function long enough to finish with something of a farewell meeting on October 5, 2024. Singapore’s Association of Racehorse Trainers president Michael Clements told Asian Racing Report in the hours after the announcement, “It is a dynamic and diverse industry, they haven’t given due diligence to the implications of this decision” before adding, “There is a real possibility of it collapsing in the next few months. They are trying to keep it going but I foresee trainers packing it in and owners asking what is the point?”

Asian Racing Report has been following the fading fortunes of Singapore racing closely since our inception just over 12-months ago. In January, exactly six months ago, we published a comment piece that stated that “the future of Singapore racing hangs in the balance,” and then this week flagged the rumours that were being repeated at an alarming rate, calling for clarity and leadership from STC officials. 

The STC got one part right, there was clarity in Monday’s announcement. It is crystal clear that Singapore is moving on from racing. But there is still a chance for leadership to be shown, so that Singapore racing doesn’t descend into a slow-moving trainwreck. 

A request for the STC: take care of the people and the horses they love, the world is watching, and racing’s reputation everywhere is at stake.


This column first appeared as a newsletter on Tuesday.

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