Just when thinking we’ve regressed even further by taking music down a well trodden path of banality through a reboot of “American Idol”, there suddenly appeared David Byrne being interviewed by Stephen Colbert- sharp, well read, always the musical iconoclast talking about perhaps writing a musical about Jared Kuchner before taking viewers on a new take on everywhere music has yet to travel with “Everybody’s Coming To My House”.
The track catches you off guard. But you go for the ride and the further you do, there’s the feeling, Virginia, that really is a Santa Claus and all is not lost. There’s the flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s a strange segue to lead from David Byrne to the running of the Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin on Sunday, but sometimes, journeys have to take different diversions to reach the stations most relevant to you. In marketing terms, you- and you and you and you- are different customer segments. I might not be a racing writer or form analyst, but twice a week, I take an interest in horse racing.
This interest is something personal and might not follow the same way of thinking of many, but surely this difference is what makes the world go round?
Do I care who wins the Hong Kong Derby? If there’s something in it for me. I’ve already taken a bet with a friend as to which horse will come last and that Dr Geoff will run in the top four. At stake are five bottles of very rare Amaroni.
This has rekindled my interest in a race that after looking like a one horse race to hardcore racing enthusiasts has suddenly become a 4-5 horse battle of skill, strategy and equine talent. It’s made a comeback with Ryan Moore and Damien Oliver, a replacement for Hugh Bowman on Ruthven, now in the mix. Joao Moreira being quoted as saying that Ryan Moore is the rider to beat on the John Size trained Ping Hai Star has added a new dimension to the race.
Though one of the most important races in the Hong Kong racing calendar, to this writer, it’s just one race. There’s an entire race meeting to look forward to on Sunday. For at least myself and a few friends who have a passing interest in the sport, we’re also waiting to see which Pakistan Star will show up for his race.
Pakistan Star is as unpredictable as David Byrne’s music. It’s why this enigmatic and always entertaining galloper with a mind of his own has won the hearts and minds of those who won’t normally think of spending their Sundays at the races. They now have a reason: Everything and everyone associated with Pakistan Star. Again, a comeback story.
For myself, the recent few weeks have given Hong Kong racing some brilliant Feel Good stories. Racing writer for the SCMP Alan Aitken has written in great detail about the incredible training feats this season of John Size. It makes for absorbing reading to really understand the importance of this master trainer’s accomplishments. If Joao Moreira is the magic man, John Size is Mandrake.
Size definitely matters. But apart from this master horse man’s ability to be low key about his high profile successes, the support he has thrown behind Olivier Doleuze, Brett Prebble and Matthew Chadwick must be life-changing to three riders who still very much have everything it takes to win races, but need the horsepower to prove it.
This is where the stars aligned and someone with the power to do so moved the chess pieces to keep things entertaining and always interesting.
Over the weekend, out of nowhere, Tiger Woods was back in the news for all the right reasons: his golf.
At the Valpar Championship, the 42-year-old came within one shot from forcing a play off and very probably winning the tournament. The comeback by The Big Cat just might have begun.
In horse racing, at Sha Tin on Sunday, trainer John Size won race after race after race- yes, three consecutive races.
What made this achievement even more special was that a different jockey won each of these races. If Joao Moreira hadn’t been on the sidelines serving out a suspension, it would have been yet another instalment of Keeping Up With John and Joao. But the script was changed and those three wins went to Matthew Chadwick, Olivier Doleuze and Brett Prebble.
Brett Prebble winning on Amazing Kids was his 800th career win in Hong Kong making him the third winningest jockey in Hong Kong after legends Douglas Whyte and Tony Cruz.
And let’s not think that Brett Prebble doesn’t deserve the term legend. He’s been a legend of Hong Kong racing for many years. He’s just been short changed reaching legendary status. Maybe that’s now changed.
Winning on Amazing Kids has given the Australian rider a renewed career boost. Like Frenchman Olivier Doleuze, this racing season has seen a reversal in fortunes for both riders. Both riders are these days described as veterans. Their best years in the saddle are supposedly behind them. Like Tiger Woods, they were no longer making headlines. But, thanks to the unwavering support of John Size, they’ve made their comebacks with a bang and are once again associated with horses who matter.
There’s then the younger Matthew Chadwick. From being an exciting apprentice he went through a lull before being associated with the champion galloper California Memory. He was back on top.
Then came another career downturn until getting on top of an unheralded horse named, yes, Pakistan Star. But when that association didn’t go the distance despite the initial success, it’s been mainly John Size who has helped Matthew Chadwick get back on the right horses- silly when he’s proven time and time again that afforded the opportunities, like any good postman, he delivers.
Matthew Chadwick has time and talent on his side. Talent always wins out. They make comebacks. And on this subject, let’s not forget the talent of Karis Teetan that saw him win his 200th winner in Hong Kong, again last weekend, on the David Ferraris trained Amazing Satchmo.
As for Olivier Doleuze, winning the Centenary Sprint Cup last month on another John Size trained galloper- DB Pin- remains the Feel Good and comeback story of this racing season.
Just when many were thinking that this would be his last season of riding, the very popular “Ollie”, who’s had a roller coaster career, is back at the top of his game. He’s a winner again of a Group 1 race.
Perhaps this is not the same headline grabbing news in the racing pages when he partnered champion Hong Kong miler Good Ba Ba, but, then again, one never knows. Horse racing needs personalities like Olivier Doleuze to cheer on. We love comeback stories.
Whoever is writing this script is yet to write an ending. It’s been kept open ended. Same with Brett Prebble. Having now ridden (over) 800 winners in Hong Kong- and this achievement finally recognised- it has shone the spotlight on him again. May the Force of Amazing Kids be with him.
On Wednesday at Happy Valley, Size mattered again with Olivier Doleuze and Brett Prebble riding another winner each for the master trainer with Matthew Chadwick coming agonisingly close to making it another new chapter in the Ongoing Adventures Of The Three Musketeers.
Just like music needs someone like David Byrne to give it the kick up the backside it needs to keep things relevant and give that small group of music fans something out of the ordinary, horse racing in 2018 needs very different content- and content comes in many guises- to feed the loyal and captive forty thousand, and also win over those who are looking for something different to feel a sense of belonging, but don’t know what this might be. But when they see it or feel it or touches them emotionally, they know.
There’s an emotional bond that’s priceless and which can never ever be bought or sold. In any industry, it’s what’s called fans. And real fans are extremely loyal and come in many different shapes, sizes and ages with many different tastes. One size- not even John Size- doesn’t fit all.
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