HORSE RACING’S EASTER PARADE. ALL IT WAS CRACKED UP TO BE?

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

For those who attended Sheikh Mo’s annual garden party in Dubai on Saturday or who watched the coverage of the races on television, well, it went according to script. The Sheikh’s Godolphin brand was to the fore all night, especially when their Thunder Snow won the Group 1 World Cup thanks to another brilliant ride by Christophe Soumillon and quite a phenomenal training effort by miracle man Saeed bin Suroor. It was an upset win? Really? It was absolutely flying! Godolphin was flying with five winners on the night.

There was the win on the dirt of the Aiden O’Brien trained Mendelssohn ridden by that man Ryan Moore and the quite extraordinary win of Mind Your Biscuits that had many choking on their kebabs.

There was also the three-peat when the Alain de Royer Dupre trained Vazirabad took out the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup, again with regular rider Soumillon aboard. Does anyone ride the Meydan course whether on turf or dirt better than Christophe Soumillon? Doubt it. And that was Dubai World Cup Day in a nutshell.

Nothing more to add really other than something not to do with horse racing- Dubai becoming a magnet as a very very lucrative market for a variety of musical acts and a fast growing location for movies with plenty of Storm Troopers marching in to create a new Bollywood.

After a few years where Dubai’s Golden Days went through a slump and all those opportunists from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe beat a hasty retreat, new and old hucksters and deal makers are back looking for funding for their various projects, most to do with the entertainment world. Some of the proposals seen make for fascinating reading.

On Sunday, there was racing from Hanshin which was hardly excitement personified. Possibly most interesting to this writer is why such a forward thinking country with brilliant fashion designers, artists, venues like the Budokan, some of the best Rock music festivals in the world, the home of the great film director Kurosawa, magnificent horses like Sunday Silence and Deep Impact, the country who gave us karaoke, sushi, sashimi and where hotels have some of the most mind blowing loos in the world with showers to give you the feeling that you’re standing starkers under a waterfall in the Amazon forest still cannot show a horse race without it being filmed on Wobblyscope yada yada yada?

Do viewers really wish to suddenly see the horse coming last lengths behind the rest of the field and think this is actually the leader before there’s a cut to the middle of the pack and finally offering a look at what’s really going on?

The entire broadcast really wasn’t the way to spend Easter Sunday. We decided to paint Easter eggs instead. All we know is that Mirco Demuro won the day’s big race. It was hardly riveting television fare though extremely thankful for being spared any jabbering from the presenters.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong and back home on terra firma, the inevitable was finally made public on Good Friday- the end of the retainer between jockey Tommy Berry and trainer John Moore.

It was an ending tipped even before the popular Sydney-based jockey arrived to a strangely muted response to take up his new job by those who, rightly or wrongly, remembered the working relationships John Moore had with former stable jockeys like John Marshall, Noel Barker, Brian York and Darren Beadman, below, which were not always smooth sailing.

When dealing with a champion trainer who’s won every big Cup race worth winning and having some of the biggest spending owners in town who often don’t understand the concept of losing, life can never be easy.

Though Tommy Berry had ridden a number of big winners for the trainer and his big-spending owners during his many former flying forays to Hong Kong, and the partnership in those days looking as strong as that of Batman and Robin, the reason given for the amicable divorce was the lack of support for the rider from the stable’s most influential owners- surprising as one would have thought they would have thrown their complete support behind Berry BEFORE he moved to Hong Kong with his young family. But this wasn’t to be the case.

With Hugh Bowman retaining the ride on champion galloper Werther and the stable jockey having to watch other rides from his stable like Hair Trigger, Magic Legend and others not coming his way, it really wasn’t difficult for even a blind man to see that all was not well in paradise. John Moore not being amongst the big Cup winners with his usual domination didn’t help. Anyone who knows Hong Kong racing will know this is when the Blame Game starts and someone becomes the sacrificial char siu bao.

Of his 13 winners to date, seven came from John Moore with three of these being aboard Class 3 galloper Agree, which races today with new 10 pound claimer Victor Wong aboard who should get off the mark today.

As for the timing for the Berry Moore partnership, it just seemed outta whack. It was probably at least three years too late. What must also have been frustrating for Tommy Berry is that according to the terms of his contract and the rules of the HKJC, he was not allowed to take outside rides if the Moore stable had runners in the same race. Rules are rules though those rules seem more than a little one-sided in a Kunta Kinte kinda way.

This afternoon, the partnership that never got off the ground ends when Green Card runs in the last with Tommy Berry receiving his own “green card” and the freedom to ride for any other stable, at least for the rest of this season, as a licensed club jockey.

Will Berry still have the occasional ride for Moore? Guess this depends on the owners and whether he sees anything with a chance to win. He can now afford to be choosy.

Who will John Moore turn to? Damien Oliver for one of the Group races? Possibly. Joao Moreira? That once tight partnership during the glory days of the great Able Friend and Rapper Dragon seems to have gone through a sour patch though there are small signs of some reconciliation.

In these constantly changing times- call it a transitional period- there’s not the usual queue for rides from the Moore yard simply because of the lack of good new horsepower. Hopefully, Sammy Clipperton, below with Berry, gets something out of it and not just the crumbs.

Good buddies with Tommy Berry, Clippo was almost keeping the saddle warm for his mate by forming a winning partnership with John Moore and, especially, the stable’s galloper Booming Delight before news of the stable jockey job became official. And then- boom- rides from the stable for the very good young rider who was on a roll dried up noticeably with even the ride on Booming Delight going walkies.

Though most believe that Sammy Clipperton will eventually join forces with Michael Freedman once the trainer’s stable is really up and running, being given a few winning rides by Moore, like getting back on Booming Delight even if it’s for old times sake, would be, well, nice.

While Tommy Berry becomes Django Unchained, Alberto Sanna aka Mambo Italiano has very very quickly won over the support of trainers and owners. And why not? He’s more than proven to all that he’s not here as some stop gap measure. Why all the talk about him having a “slow start” in Hong Kong? He’s adapted to racing in Hong Kong more quickly than many others and this can be seen in the results.

Last Wednesday it was another Italian Job with Sanna riding a double including an absolutely gem of a ride, again for trainer Tony Cruz, this time on Gold Mount, to win the Happy Valley Vase for billionaire businessman and owner Pan Sutong. Riding a winner for Pan Sutong often leads to Mambo Number 5. Just ask Christophe Soumillon.

This afternoon “Mambo Italiano” has rides for solid supporter Ricky Yiu plus Chris So, David Ferraris, Danny Shum, Michael Chang, Frankie Lor, and two for Me YS Tsui- eight rides in the ten-race card. That’s pretty good going for a very hard working and grateful rider who just a few weeks ago was dismissed by one senior rider as being “not good enough for Hong Kong”. Well, so much for that pizza bologna.

Back to today’s racing, Harmony Hero which raced as Lina’s Hero in Australia for old friend Peter Kopke, John “The Storyteller” Fellows and Tony “The Vasillator” Vasil, steps out for his second run in Hong Kong.

Despite the deafening roar that the galloper was a moral to win his debut start a few weeks ago, this did not materialise, something which did not surprise trainer Richard Gibson and those in Hong Kong who clasped their hands over their ears and ran away from the hype brigade.

A certainty to win a 1200 metre race when drawn out wide on foreign soil after a long lay off? Please.

Though tackling a more suitable 1400 metres this afternoon, but carrying top weight and drawn barrier eleven, should see this extremely expensive purchase with Nash Rawiller aboard put up a much better showing in a Class 3 race that doesn’t really have any runners that jump off the page.

Harmony Hero will start favourite again and require another clever ride from The Gnasher, who has those winners ticking over nicely as he flies and rides below the radar. What does any of that say about the chances of Harmony Hero? Who knows?

Anything else? Other than perhaps following Douglas Whyte- remember him?- who has eight rides today- quite a big number to what usually comes his way these days and possibly due to the suspensions of the Zac Attack, Neil Callan, Karis Teetan and the injuries to Umberto Rispoli and more recently Dylan Mo, one cannot buy experience. Can’t wait for his book.

His rides for especially Francis Lui today are probably worth more than a cursory glance. Other tips? Follow your hunches, keep them to yourself and talk in riddles.

Happy Easter!

#horseracing #Meydan #DubaiWorldCupDay #Godolphin #ChristopheSoumillon #HKRacing #TommyBerry #JohnMoore #HKJC #AlbertoSanna #SamClipperton #NashRawiller #DouglasWhyte

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