THE MANY DIFFERENT FACES OF HORSE RACING AND DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

It’s basic psychology: When good things happen to good people there’s a feeling of happiness that’s contagious. It’s been mentioned here many times: It’s The Likability Factor.

So when popular Italian jockey Alberto Sanna won the first race of the Happy Wednesday Goes Korean night- his tenth winner during his short term riding stint in Hong Kong, which has now rightfully seen his license extended until the end of this season- we cheered him on. The Italian girls in the Beer Garden screamed loudest for “Mambo Italiano”. He seems a good man, grateful to be here and knowing there’s always room for improvement.

There was the same cheering when Aussie Brett Prebble rode a 360 to 1 double including winning on 54 to 1 outsider Majestic Emperor after having a solitary ride at the meeting before. As tweeted on Wednesday night, give this very good and experienced jockey rides with a chance and, like Adam Ant once sang, he stands and delivers.

The night however belonged to Mauritian Karis Teetan who came storming back after a short suspension and a bit of a lull with a terrific trio of winners. Like Brett Prebble, his exuberance after winning is thoroughly infectious.

All of this made Happy Wednesday that much happier for those who follow racing and know the riders. If doing the math, these three riders rode six of the card’s eight winners.

For those who don’t know these riders, they found out soon enough. It would be fair to say that after his hard-fought third winner in the last race, the Karismatic Fan Club has grown.

With most jockeys now being heavily promoted by the HKJC and some already having their own music videos, it says much when DJs based in Hong Kong and part of this region’s rapidly growing EDM community who frequent the Beer Garden come up and ask if they can Remix and play these tracks in clubs.

From a marketing point of view it means spreading the consumer net wider and reaching those who, a short time ago, might have looked at horse racing as something for a much older and, well, unhip group of one dimensional people. But with riders like Karis, Chad Schofield, Sammy Clipperton, Tommy Berry and a few others still in their twenties along with their girlfriends and friends- and friends of friends and friends of these friends passing on the news about what makes a Happy Wednesday a Happy Wednesday on a regular basis, there’s a domino effect. It’s a consistent domino effect. It’s not about one-off sideshows.

For the HKJC it means gaining “street marketing teams” and “cred” for free and seeing where all this could lead in the evolution of its successful international Happy Wednesday brand.

Leave the plush toys, caps and key chains for Sha Tin and a very yodifferent demographic. Right, guys?

Still with Remixes and EDM and attracting that younger generation to the sport and bringing those who make this sport happen by competing on the main stage- the racetrack- into the party atmosphere, let’s not forget that popular French jockey Olivier Doleuze is a part-time DJ, loves Dance music and has his own home studio setup. Bring him into the Remix. The odds are that DJ Ollie would love to be part of it all. Have merci.

Often, marketing is about giving consumers a sense of belonging. Away from the racetrack, many of our jockeys enjoy having a good time. They enjoy fashion and dancing and discovering new restaurants and clubs. They enjoy having FUN and a break from what they do for a living.

Having been out with some of them, they’re fun, regular people with similar and different interests. They’re not officious tight asses full of themselves and flatulence. Watching Edward Sadler last night interview one of these characters along with a few friends had a terrible effect on our dinner. But we move on…

With Hannah Butler, girlfriend of jockey Chad Schofield, now hosting the ongoing Fast Track Fashionistas search as part of a Happy Wednesday, it offers plenty of food for thought to make the racing at Sha Tin more than what it is. Perhaps something with a bit more style without going over the top with hats and strawberries and cream and Peaches and Herb.

Sure, keep the giveaways and continue to have veteran TVB actress Liza Wang perform for the local racing uncles and aunties as she has been doing for three decades. But just as “Sassy Wednesday” marketing made way for something more relevant, surely it’s time to enhance the on course experience at Sha Tin to compete with the convenience of streaming the races from wherever one chooses?

“Build it and they will come” is a line in a movie. But what exactly is there in Shatin’s Field Of Dreams for people to make that pilgrimage to a racetrack on a Sunday afternoon when other leisure activities are competing for the same consumer dollar?

One magnet is the fantastic restaurant called Haymarket and designed by Joyce Wang, the most in-demand interior designer in town.

How many even know it exists? Certainly not many jockeys, trainers and owners looking for somewhere new to introduce friends coming to Sha Tin for the first time.

Just because Haymarket is full every race day and is in the Public area doesn’t mean not promoting this venue- and others that have come on stream which one only hears about in passing and has to then look them up on Google Search. Trying to find all this by navigating one’s way through the clutter of the HKJC website? No time for all that.

At least tweet some photos that capture the atmosphere of the races instead of what are all the time press releases and race results in 140 words or less after the horses have bolted.

As for the racing product, one cannot help but smile thinking of trainer John Size’s embarrassment of riches, especially in the sprinting ranks and which ride or rides Joao Moreira is going to call his own.

The Magic Man is not infallible and has owned up that he made the wrong choices when it came to giving up the rides on the brilliant Derby winner Ping Hai Star, below with winning rider Ryan Moore, and in the 2017 Hong Kong International Sprint, Mr Stunning who brought Group 1 success to Nash Rawiller.

We like Joao Moreira very much, and we felt for him watching his heavily punted down first ride at Royal Randwick and the second day of The Championships that really was a Super Saturday of racing yesterday- the Bott/Waterhouse trained race favourite Bold Arial- sweat up badly prior to the race before tackling a mile. Yes, a mile, something not lost on knowledgable form experts.

Bold Arial led, kept leading and then seemed to suffer from cramps and capitulated ending up stone motherless last. For once, one didn’t see the diplomacy of Joao Moreira after the race. He knew the ride had been a waste of his time, he couldn’t care less who trained the horse and said what was on his mind.

While wondering why a rider the calibre of Joao Moreira bothers flying down under to ride in front of many who would like to see him fail when he can chill and prepare himself to race in Hong Kong the next day, he caught the fire and delivered with the Hayes, Hayes and Dabernig trained Catchy.

This would have had his critics choking on tall poppies. For the rider, the win helped break a winless hoodoo streak in Australia. Would this win have satisfied someone born to succeed and who’s driven to be the very best he can? Of course not.

And yes, Winx won her 25th straight race and the crowd exploded at another one act affair- and a brilliant accomplishment. But what resonated far more with this writer was Daniel Moor, below, another of those quiet achievers, riding the Quaddie at Caulfield on four long priced winners.

The other personal highlight was seeing the nine year old Who Shot TheBarman winning the Group 1 Sydney Cup in a tight finish and under a brilliant ride by Blake Shinn.

These are the Feel Good stories one waits to happen. And when they do, they awaken something inside of you that goes far beyond horse racing. It puts you back in touch with yourself and what really matters to you. You say potato and I say spuds. It’s about individuality and not conforming just to be liked.

Back in Hong Kong, yes, Size matters and there must be a conga line of jockeys snaking their way to the champion trainer’s door hoping to get on any Joao Joao discards. One really doubts, however, that Douglas Whyte will be part of this conga line.

Being the Wily Coyote of Hong Kong racing that he is, and seemingly out of favour with his old pal, Whyte looks to be very much in the good books of trainer John Moore with possibly the next chapter of his career in racing in mind.

The man is no fool. Apart from always conducting himself with total professionalism and not engaging in any “sledging” and trash talking, he’s extremely focused about getting what he wants. Some might call it being ruthless, or selfish or arrogant or looking after nΓΊmero uno. But everyone is different. Time changes everything and everyone, some have shorter memories than others and things implode because they’ve run their course. It’s no one’s fault. It’s about moving on.

For horse racing to evolve or succeed or whatever the word is, it’s about doing whatever is relevant and meaningful to each market- and each market breaking this down to what attracts their different consumer groups of all ages to the sport. Each will have very different ways of accepting horse racing by knowing exactly what they want out of it. It’s no different to marketing any other product.

Where horse racing often trips over itself is when those whose job it is to put on the best possible show on turf overthink something simple and bludgeon it to death before finally giving it the wings to fly. Often this is too late.

The reason? Losing sight of the key objective of creating a fun on course experience for consumers by over-analysing everything until it’s reduced into yet another serving of stale corporate waffles no one wants except for the same old same elders of the game.

#horseracing #hkjc #hkracing #randwick #joaomoreira #thechampionships #Winx #AlbertoSanna #BrettPrebble #KarisTeetan #marketing #JoyceWang #EDM #DanielMoor #whoshotthebarman

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