THE GAUCH (AND HORSE RACING ACCENTUATING THE POSITIVE)

By Hans Ebert
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There’s a new book out by Kristen Manning on the jockey known to many in racing as The Gauch. Darren Gauci.

Though occasionally seeing him, especially after the night meetings at Happy Valley when he was riding in Hong Kong, I only got to really meet the gentleman over a coffee when in Melbourne. That was almost two years ago. It was at Mr Hives in the Crown. We talked. We joked. Got to know each other as well as one can in a couple of hours.

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WHERE ARE HORSE RACING’S MAD MEN?

By Hans Ebert
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“Does horse racing really need to be creative? Doesn’t it kinda just sell itself?” It was a two part question asked by a small group of very international creative types during a long lunch earlier this week at a hotel in Hong Kong.

Some had had their flights canceled because of a rampaging Typhoon Mangkhut and were taking shelter from the storm. Others were soaking in the experience of being caught in a real typhoon for the first time. My thoughts were with friends in the Philippines. And those here and their families and property there. Meanwhile Twitter went into such ferocious overdrive with constant updates and videos from so many alarmists, it needed its caffeine intake taken away.

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TAB RADIO: WHERE IS THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD HEADING?

By Hans Ebert
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Right now, it’s The Little Engine That Might Just Be Able To Make A Difference. The question is, Will it be allowed to? How long will it last? How can it travel further? Do the decision makers believe it has a future?

I enjoy tuning into TAB Radio in Western Australia. And this is at a time when I am questioning horse racing content, its relevance, racing writers and the pastime’s mediums for its messages.

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HORSE RACING, CRAZY RICH ASIANS AND JUMPING INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN

By Hans Ebert
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It’s about understanding what makes anyone come horse racing, especially in this day and age where so many have a buffet of leisure activities available to them 24/7. It’s a complex question to answer to get one’s head around. And even if answered, there are more questions to answer. Inquisitive minds need to know.

Many who show up for a Happy Wednesday at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong make up a wildly interesting and very different customer demographic. They’re fascinating beasts. Do they come for the horse racing or the on course experience? If a betting person, one would say the latter. They’re still learning about the racing caper and are risk averse. They’re suspicious. Integrity in racing almost needs a complete overhaul. Drop the word “almost”. Frankly, horse racing might just need to completely reinvent itself to appeal to them and hand them the reins to make the most of what will always be a pastime.

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NASH RAWILLER. KEVIN EGAN. THE ICAC.

By Hans Ebert
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A very short time before he suddenly passed away in June, barrister Kevin Egan, 70, called as he always did on a race day to ask what I fancied for a Six Up. It was the only bet he made. Sunday afternoons was time for him to get away from everything on his boat. After he had placed his Six Up.

We would exchange notes. He was always surprised when mentioning that one particular Australian jockey’s ride should not be left out of calculations.

As was the norm, big Kev, who went out of his way to help many, especially in the racing game and suddenly finding themselves unwittingly in trouble or facing the wrath of the almighty Stewards, would mumble, “That little thief? He couldn’t lie straight in bed! The club should have got rid of him a decade ago!”

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HONG KONG AND WHEN LESS WAS MORE

By Hans Ebert
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Less is more. Or less was more. And maybe this is where Hong Kong has gone wrong. It’s become Mr Creosote.

Gluttony has taken hold of the city. Perhaps not gluttony so much, but because of not knowing what people want, throwing everything against the kitchen sink and see what sticks. Usually, nothing. It’s just another buffet of odds and sods. Fusion cuisine where confusion reigns as no one is really sure of anything. It’s Dabblers Anonymous.

When first arriving in Hong Kong from what was then Ceylon, there suddenly appeared the…lunch box. It was a brilliant concept. Lunch in a box. For a nine year old, the highlight was a Saturday. Mum would have a half day from work and would bring home a lunch box- either chicken curry and rice or baked pork chop and rice from what was probably the first fast food outlet in Hong Kong: Ong Lok Yuen.

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HORSE RACING IN THE LAND OF THE BLIND.

By Hans Ebert
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“How many holes does it take to fill the Albert Hall?” John Lennon sang that line on the Beatles’ haunting recording of “A Day In The Life”. It could apply to every racing club in the world. Every. One. And this should be looked at as something positive. As a challenge. As a call to action. And change. Why? There’s a very different consumer and customer out there today who looks at horse racing very differently. Not a huge customer group. But it’s something. And they’re demanding change. It’s a quiet revolution. Maybe it’s time for one. High time.

It’s up to those running racing clubs and those running every single medium that hosts horse racing news and information and content to wake up and read the tea leaves. Horse racing is very quickly looking old. It’s talking to itself. It’s quickly becoming senile.

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WHY HONG KONG NEEDS A HAPPY WEDNESDAY

By Hans Ebert
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It’s always good to prove the sceptics wrong. It happened in a small way in Hong Kong on Wednesday. That it happened at a racetrack made it even more special. Maybe it wasn’t such a small deal after all.

It was at Happy Valley racecourse and the first Happy Wednesday of the new Hong Kong racing season. It’s taken around six years, but after coming up against a few hurdles, and some who could not see it happening, a Happy Wednesday has become a brand. It’s received a Certificate Of Excellence from Trip Advisor. It’s a tourist attraction. It’s a trip. It makes those twentysomething minutes between the races fly. Those breaks are filled with entertaining. As said, it’s a trip. A four trip exclusive to one racecourse situated right in the middle of skyscrapers. In the middle of the city.

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THE PROBLEMS (AND SOLUTIONS) OF HORSE RACING…

By Hans Ebert
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It’s not just about looking forward to the horse racing. Not in 2018 and the world hurtling towards 2019. It’s about that on course experience. Easy enough to say, but difficult to do, especially when not really understanding what this means in the context of horse racing. And first creating a product that appeals to those different customer segments. Are there that many? Maybe not.

Maybe it’s only the Haves and the Have-Nots and the purists/traditionalists and those “iconoclasts” who don’t have a clue about the “protocols” of horse racing and, supposedly, the need for them. To this group, it’s about keeping it simple. It’s not about going to the church of racingology. Or as a singer friend mentioned the other day, learning to speak Jockeynese.

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YOU HEARD RIGHT: THERE’S A SOUTH AFRICAN NIEKERK IN TOWN

By Hans Ebert
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It’s really all about reading the mood of the city. Any city. Who’s prioritising what and trying to figure out where you fit in. In Hong Kong, restaurants, shops and clubs are opening and closing. Consumers demands are forcing them to make their decisions. The old business mantra of “We’re breaking even” makes no sense. Why work to “break even”?

As has been written here many times before, horse racing twice a week is more than enough. It’s an affordable pastime or hobby. A weekend and mid-week break from a city that’s constantly changing. That’s always on the move even when standing still to catch its breath.

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