After Wednesday’s all-weather meeting at Sha Tin- we gave it a miss for a darn good meal at the always reliable Manchu China in Elgin Street- there’s some interesting Group 1 action this afternoon with the running of the Centenary Sprint Cup over 1200 metres metres and the Stewards Cup.
The last race, where there are 4-5 very good new prospects led by Sacred Ibis should sizzle as much as one of Manchu China’s signature dishes- the Sizzling Cumin Lamb. Yes, the race is that good.
In the sprint race, two horses leap out of the page- Mr Stunning and DB Pin, both trained by John Size. Both met in December’s International Sprint and ran the quinella with Mr Stunning winning the race. Some believe that if not being caught out wide, DB Pin would have won while others, like myself, still wonder if that run was an exception and not the rule.
More important, at a time when good rides- or even just rides- are very difficult to come by, John Size continues to give Olivier Delouze the most number of winning opportunities. And the very popular Frenchman who’s had a bit of a roller coaster career spanning a few decades including many years as champion jockey in Macau does his best to repay this loyalty.
Delouze retains the ride on DB Pin while, of course, Nash Rawiller rides the race favourite Mr Stunning. Let’s not forget that Mr Stunning is a Joao Moreira discard with the brilliant Brazilian rider having chosen to stick with Thewizardofoz- proof that even magic men lose their wands once in a while and when rabbits refuse to pop out of hats.
In a three-pronged attack, Moreira rides another John Size runner in Beat The Clock. No, one should not go there. Mr Stunning has always been a personal favourite, and it would be no surprise to see him win this race easily while admiring himself in the mirror. But having said this, there’s another personal favourite- Blizzard- reunited with the rider who has probably had the most success with him- Karis Teetan.
What’s both interesting and refreshing to see is that this rider- a complete unknown when he first arrived in Hong Kong until he won on Amazing Always, his first race ride here- flies under the radar, has his feet on the ground, let’s his winners do the talking, has morphed into The Mauritian Magician and is lying third in the Jockey Premiership. He might not get the column inches as a Zac Purton or a Joao Moreira, but one doubts this bothers him.
Ask local racing fans who’s their favourite rider and Karis Teetan’s name is always up there. Though knowing and liking a number of those riding in this race, nothing will give me more satisfaction than for Karis Teetan and Blizzard to win it. Yes, the odds say this won’t happen, but beating the odds and winning is a wonderful thing.
In the Stewards’ Cup, the overnight favourite is Helen Paragon and one hopes he wins. This will be the fillip Tommy Berry needs to show the naysayers and certain owners that it might have taken longer than expected, but he’s certainly deserving of being the stable jockey for John Moore. If, however, visiting jockey Hugh Bowman wins on Werther in a race where Moore has four runners, well, the local rumour mill will go into such overdrive that it just might implode.
Looking back at the overseas races yesterday, it was the usual mixture of the good, the bad and the fugly. That’s right: fugly.
At Ellerslie in New Zealand, Australian riders Jake Bayliss, below right with brother Regan and their mum, and Hugh Bowman rode doubles. The kid could also be in a rock band.
Young Bayliss is making the most of his six month stint down there and certainly giving very good top local riders like Opie Bosson and Danielle Johnson a run for their money.
In Western Australia- Ascot, to be exact- young Tayla Stone, below, used her lightweight to catch everyone napping including “The Wizard” William Pike by seizing the initiative and leading all the way on the well backed Veuve De Vega.
It would be fair to say that at one stage of the stage, she was leading by a conservative eight lengths. It brought back memories of some of the “boat” races orchestrated when Hong Kong racing meant Saturday races at Happy Valley and no one said anything about nothing.
Still with WA, there are some talented young riders there like Chris Parnham and Lucy Warwick, and some decent racing, but it really must improve the presentation of its racing product. There are way too many production glitches which often makes some good racing sound like something performed by The Amateur Players From Le Village Of Dumps. And as race caller and the Yoda of WA racing Darren McCauley remarked earlier yesterday, “There’s nothing worse than a bad dump”.
Still, none of this is as goofy and downright stupid as some of those regular Saturday tipsters in Oz trying to help punters snare a share of a quaddie with selections where there are sometimes 6-7 selections in one leg. And they often still can’t find the winner. Please, Einsteins, do the maths. What, for example did the quaddie at Rosehill pay yesterday? $211. And if taking a flexi? It wouldn’t buy you a dim sum.
Closer to home, there was a quietly promoted simulcast of Met Day from Cape Town, South Africa. We had completely forgotten about this and only managed to watch one race where there was a false start and everything went pear shaped after that. But we hear that the racing was good as were the commingling figures. But with Saturday night meaning chilling out, we headed out to the excellent Potato Head with friends who wouldn’t know horses from hors d’ouvres.
Meanwhile at Caulfield yesterday, the always entertaining Craig Williams managed to win the last race of the day on even money favourite Morton’s Fork. It stopped what looked like being one forked up weekend for the jockey. The night before, he was part of the inglorious failure of the odds on favourite Brave Smash.
In a seven horse field, Brave Smash failed to run in the top four, something not exactly surprising to many, especially those on social media who mentioned the day before and again on the evening of the race that Brave Smash was a false favourite. Even trainer Darren Weir mentioned after the race about a “trainer error” while there was some post race prattling that made no sense.
The highlight at Moonee Valley? Probably the presence of Idy, the ambassador for the Australia China Jockey Club. Idy is statuesque though the photograph below must be the leading contender for the Monty Python Award for complete randomness and what looks like a very strange Ladbrokes marketing effort. That’s Ladbrokes Matt Lymn behind the camera. Times must be tough.
As for Craig Williams, yes, he’s extremely good at marketing himself, and yes, he’s very giving of his time to the racing media, and yes (yawn), he makes his own Christmas cards, and yes, he more often than not delivers. Kinda. But here in Hong Kong, every time we see that he has been called up for one of his frequent cameo appearances, we get a little queasy as usually something goes awry.
It did again last Sunday at Sha Tin when in the running of the Classic Mile, he tried some “competitive riding” aboard the very expensive but disappointing purchase Lockheed, and almost made race favourite Nothingilikemore come undone. Almost. But what The Craggily One hadn’t counted on was a very intelligent horse and the equally intelligent Magic Man sitting on top of him.
Joao Moreira could see what game was being played- and it was a silly one- and together with the turf wise Nothingilikemore, was having none of it. For his troubles, Mr Craggily received a suspension. Oh dear.
Of course, both Craig Williams and Dwayne Dunn received regular call ups from the HKJC whenever the riding ranks were a tad thin on the ground. Mercifully, these flying visits stopped some time ago. Last week, Mr Craggily was flown out by the connections of Lockheed to ride their horse in the Classic Trial and paid the consequences.
Never one of the more popular riders with local racing fans, here’s hoping that if and when the HKJC looks at stop gap measures, it doesn’t go to the same old well and dredge up the ghosts of Christmas past- not when there are some exciting young riding talent like Chris Caserta, below, Regan Bayliss, Ben Allen, Chris Parnham and extremely talented female riders in Jamie Kah, Danielle Johnson from New Zealand and Lucy Warwick from Western Australia.
If one never takes any chances with the new, it’s about being stuck in the past. And surely horse racing desperately needs to pry itself from this self imprisonment and become Django Unchained? Let’s hope so, anyway.
Getting back to racing at Sha Tin and not being tipsters, below are the selections of Keyser Soze.
They’re probably just as good or as bad as anything given out by those who do this job for a living. Our tip: Follow your hunches like a certain Danish lady we know. Ignorance can often be bliss.
KEYSER SOZE’S UNUSUAL SUSPECTS FOR SHA TIN THIS AFTERNOON
Favourites should be to the fore from race 5 onwards which won’t guarantee a big Six Up payout. But the first four races appear packed with value. The question is there can be “value”, but what’s the point of “value” if they’re not there, especially in Quartet bets? So, take a chance and watch for that green lamp of the betting gods to light up.
GOLDEN CANNON (11)
BLISS CARTEL (12)
WINNER ST PAUL (4)
This is a lottery with tactics coming into play and very few capable of running out a strong 2000 metres but these not exactly being reliable conveyances. Weak horses in a staying event? Only for the very brave or for the very foolish.
MIDNIGHT PROMISE (14)
KING WINSA (8)
HAPPY ROCKY (7)
PREMIUM CHAMPION (4)
EIGHTY EIGHTY (4)
LUCKY LUCKY (13)
NICE KICK (2)
PEOPLE’S CHAMPION (10)
VIVA COUNCIL (13)
JOYFUL PARK (9)
ELECTRIC LIGHTNING (3)
AFFLUENT START (8)
RADIANT STEED (7)
FRIENDS OF NANJING (14)
CIRCUIT KING (13)
TURF SPRINT (5)
WATER DIVINER (3)
FORTUNE BO BO (2)
MONEY BOY (6)
MR STUNNING (1)
BEAT THE CLOCK (8)
DB PIN (2)
HELENE PARAGON (2)
FIFTY FIFTY (11)
SEASONS BLOOM (6)
TIME WARP (3)
CIRCUIT GLORY (10)
LAST KINGDOM (6)
SACRED IBIS (12)
GREEN ENERGY (1)
NEW ELEGANCE (3)
LADY FIRST (9)
R10: SACRED IBIS (12)
R6: TURF SPRINT (5)
R8: FIFTY FIFTY (11)
#HongKongHorseRacing #HongKong #ShaTin #MrStunning #DBPin #JohnSize #NashRawiller #JoaoMoreira #KarisTeetan #Stewards’Cup