Difficult but necessary: Why it’s time to bid the S’pore Turf Club adios 

After 180 years, the sport of kings will be nothing more than a memory with the imminent closure of the Singapore Turf Club in October 2024. There is shock and anger, sadness, and angst; for it is not only livelihoods but also a slice of our cultural heritage that is lost.  

However, the decline and fall of horse racing in Singapore is hardly surprising. Despite a long and prestigious history, interest in the sport has waned, with attendance dwindling due to competing leisure options and a shift in values. Moreover, some of us are not the most supportive of whipping a horse into submission for prize money in the 21st century.  

Putting animal welfare aside, the opportunity costs of horse racing is high for a small country like Singapore. Because as Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah shared in a Facebook post, closing the racecourse is “one of the tough choices we have to make with the reality of land constraints.” 

 There is no doubt that horse racing might have lived another day if it had generated enough interest and revenue. But the abysmal number of attendees, 2,600 per race day post-Covid compared to 11,000 in 2010, signals the death knell. Locally, it is a sunset industry, and there is no reason why the land it sits on has to die along with it. 

Revitalising the North  

Hidden away in Kranji, the Singapore Racecourse site is over 120 hectares. Putting it in perspective, that is the size of more than 240 football fields. In a densely built-up nation like Singapore, land of that expanse is rarer than a white tiger.  

Rather than let the land sit idle for the better part of the week when races are not on, redevelopment of the land occupied by the racecourse and its surroundings will allow us to optimise the area for better use in the future.  

After all, Kranji is a unique area. Nestled between Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and the Mandai wildlife parks, the racecourse site offers us the potential to transform Kranji into our very own Hampstead Heath, North London’s iconic green space. Imagine a housing estate flanked by blue and green spaces and the creation of a recreation and community hub for all Singaporeans. 

As we continue building a city for the future, there are also plans to convert Lim Chu Kang into a high-tech agri-food area, redevelop Woodlands Checkpoint and enhance Woodlands Town under the Remaking our Heartland programme. With these changes, Singaporeans can look forward to a renaissance of the North, which makes the area an even more enticing region to live and work in.  

In an ideal world, governments need not have to choose between housing and horses. But since it has to, providing Singaporeans with future housing will have to take precedence. It is a difficult choice, but we can rest assured that our horse-racing heritage will continue to live on in memories and archives.  

Photo Source: Singapore Turf Club/URA