When owners get involved in giving trainers and jockeys instructions on how to ride their horses, especially in a big Group race, the odds are that things are going to go horribly wrong. And which is what happened in the running of the Chairman’s Trophy at Sha Tin last Sunday. Too many cooks spoil the broth and all that other puff pastry stuff.
The moment one saw Karis Teetan bustling Fifty Fifty out and trying to get the usual back marker to lead at all costs, one just sat back and watched a comedy of errors take place. Forget the oddity of seeing stayer Time Warp starting the 2 to 1 favourite and the usual backing by the loyalists of Pakistan Star.
Seeing everything not go according to script and the best laid plans come undone might have had longtime local racing fans thinking back to those days when the erratic “Rambo” Tse and other cowboys were riding here. Months of planning usually bit the dust other than one Quartet race where there was a well-regimented chorus line of four falling into order.
While Pakistan Star did his own thing and trailed the field, out in front was something like a battle scene from “Braveheart”. The ensuing result meant everything playing into the hands of Neil Callan, recently reunited with the Tony Cruz trained Beauty Only- and for that matter, the trainer who’s been shopping elsewhere for riders this season despite the pair’s great success with the dysfunctional ownership-plagued Blazing Speed.
The canny Callan probably couldn’t believe his Irish luck the moment the barriers flew open. He seized the day and the opportunity to say, Thank you very much and put paid to those who, from leading at a breathneck speed, capitulated and allowed his galloper at over 35 to 1, and given no chance by even his trainer who had two other runners in the race, went on for an easy win. The Iron Man’s bloodcurdling victory yell would have put Billy Idol to shame. Dogs are still cowering and being treated for shock.
For Neil Callan and his Rebel Yell, the win was a return to the limelight he needed. Group 1 winners, especially, have been hard to come by for the competitive rider this season. And without big winners, new flavours of the day come into play and good winning rides go walkies.
With its 15 percent tax on earnings, racing twice a week, two racecourses less than an hour from each other, generous owners and five star lifestyle, Hong Kong is a magnet to many in the racing game. But one must first be invited to join the jockey colony…and then deliver. Consistently.
People have short memories. Ask Douglas Whyte, whose legacy will always be winning the Hong Kong Jockey Premiership for thirteen consecutive seasons, but who went through a bit of a barren spell when it came to stable support last season. Ask Brett Prebble, who recently rode his 800th winner in Hong Kong, but had the solitary ride on Sunday.
As for Neil Callan, was he surprised with the win? Not when one listened to his pre-race interviews. It was as if he knew this would be a race of tactics and one daft move would play straight into his hands. And it did.
The well-documented Pakistan Star who, as is now the norm, ran on from the back of the field for fourth, well, only the most foolish would think that he’s not trying to tell us something: I. Do. Not. Wish. To. Race. Either that or “Put my old friend Matthew Chadwick back on top of me as I’m not budging with any Samba Boys belting me. That just irks me”. Forget about the times of the last sectionals yada yada yada. All that talk has become repetitive and offers hope where there is none.
Though the highlight of the afternoon was the incredible performance of Beat The Clock, another of those brilliant sprinters from the John Size arsenal of equine talent, one must stand up and applaud Douglas Whyte and Alberto Sanna.
Despite being involved in a horrific and sickening looking fall in the second race, both riders picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and got back to fulfilling the rest of their rides for the day.
To have the often critical local racing fans give Whyte a huge cheer when he paraded in front of them on his galloper after his fall showed another side to their personalities: Respect where respect is due. It was good to see just as it was good to see Umberto Rispoli back in action just ten DAYS after shattering his collarbone. Time away can be affected in many different ways including losing winning rides.
Elsewhere, Tommy Berry forfeited his rides for the day due to a stomach bug, and with the Berry Moore partnership having finally and officially gone down the gurgler, the champion trainer produced a first starter- a Solar Patch- which won for Sam Clipperton and who seems to have been welcomed back into the Moore fold.
Joao Moreira and Douglas Whyte, of course, are careful not to detonate any bridges with the trainer and his big spending owners. The Moore Whyte combination is worth following, especially with next season in mind.
As for this evening’s racing, the battle royale for the Jockey Premiership has probably fizzled out with The Zac Attack receiving a short suspension following his flying visit to compete on the first day of the Championships at Randwick, and Joao Moreira, below, riding a double on Sunday compared to Zac’s solitary win.
While the latter sits out the races tonight as Happy Wednesday goes Korean, the Brazilian maestro should at least ride a winner- probably See Me Now in race four- whereas the rider with a very good book of rides being Matthew Poon. It might be Choo Choo time for the Poon Train who’s riding in recent weeks with plenty of success and a new-found sense of confidence.
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