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Monday 25-Apr-2016
The Sport of Kings

還記得之前的《紳士球》文章嗎?原來當中提到英國的Sport of Kings,不是馬球獨尊的。繼續閱讀前,必先提提大家:沉迷賭博,倒錢落海!我絕對反對任何形式的賭博,但今次想和大家從健康和歷史角度淺談英國文化的重要一員,也是馬狗以外的另一項Sport of Kings-賽馬。

 

對於賽馬的起源,不少學者都認為,最初見於公元七世紀古希臘詩人荷馬的《伊利昂記》,提及有關馬戰車的競賽。坐時光機一下來到七百年後的十四世紀,法國亦開始有民間的賽馬賭博出現。起初,賽馬是平民運動,由馬主提供獎金,讓農村鄉下的人們在大時大節以賽馬作餘慶節目。

 

直到十七世紀時,賽馬項目終於來到英國。當時的英王查里二世是個喜歡享樂的國王,並有「歡樂王」之稱。所謂「尋常事,認真做」,即使賽馬在國人眼中只是娛樂事一樁,不必費心神,但查里二世卻異常認真,除了制定了有關賽馬的規則,亦規定了參賽馬匹的年齡、性別、產地、騎師等種種賽馬規格。

 

除了賽制,查里二世還在Newmarket興建了兩座馬場,July Course和Rowley Mile Course,春秋兩季輪流使用,July Course夏天較曬,怕馬仔辛苦。而查里二世創立了Newmarket Town Plate賽事,至今仍一直有在英國舉行,因為他太愛賽馬了,認為這賽事「should run forever」。

 

所謂國王是天下人民的父母,查里二世對賽馬的熱愛,當然感染了英國上下的人民。縱使當時有人對賽馬持反對態度,但仍阻止不了這種運動的人氣,而亦因為國王帶起了賽馬的關係,賽馬在英國亦有了「Sport of Kings」的稱呼。

 

而隨著賽馬日漸普及,博彩也需要規範化。於是,在十八世紀時,一些紳士們就在咖啡室內制定了一系列的賽馬博彩規矩,並漸漸成為今天賽馬會的雛形,也為今天的彩馬博彩業奠下了基礎。除了歷史原因,添加了博彩成份的賽馬亦是令其發達的因素。至今,英國已有不少知名賽事,例如St. Leger Stakes和Epsom Derby等,都廣為人熟悉。

 

來到了今天的香港,也許「賽馬」二字給你的印象總不太好:病態賭徒,賭錢賭到家破人亡之類。但從歷史和文化角度看,賽馬都是英國文化中不可或缺的一部分。



圖片:The 1821 Derby at Epsom

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Samuel Chan, the winner of Alumni Awards 2017, is the founder of Britannia. He had studied in the UK since the age of 9 for 15 years and achieved his master degree in International Political Economy at University of Warwick. Now he shares his experiences and professional advice in education columns in Hong Kong’s major newspapers.

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