OF LOCAL HEROES AND A HONG KONG RACING HALL OF FAME…

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

“They almost never get the credit they deserve. Never!” Someone with us at the races on Wednesday night at Happy Valley was both happy and frustrated after local trainer Me Tsui, below, had trained his third winner of the night. Tsui, below, went on to train four winners in the eight race card.

Apprentice Jack H.N.Wong, often overlooked when compared to the column inches devoted to the other two apprentices riding in Hong Kong right now, and especially the expatriate riders, rode off with the Jockey Challenge. He also completely out rode Joao Moreira most of the night with a brilliant ride to win aboard Good For You. This season’s Jack H.N.Wong is a new, improved model.

The “they” our friend was talking about are the local trainers and riders and how their successes like those mentioned above often travel under the radar. Happy Wednesday might have had a French theme this night, but the races were a Made In Hong Kong success story. Yes, often these are taken for granted or ignored altogether. They’re not marketed. They’re kept in their little boxes.

The focus is almost always on the leading horses trained by the three leading trainers- John Size, Tony Cruz, John Moore- and often ridden by the two leading jockeys- Joao Moreira and Zac Purton. And why not? They make the racing headlines. Still, there’s gotta be more to keep things interesting. To keep things moving onwards and upwards and covering all bases to interest ALL racing fans, especially the Hong Kong Chinese.

This season, the phenomenal success of first season trainer Frankie Lor has not gone unnoticed. But even this local success story has been linked to his time as Assistant Trainer to the great John Size.

Some might argue that Tony Cruz is a “local boy and home grown talent”, but this is rarely- very rarely- marketed, or whatever the word is. Quick cutaway to a personal idol in Bruce Lee.

For years, Bruce Lee struggled in Hollywood to be recognised as being much more that a Chinese actor playing token “Chinamen” roles in television series like The Green Hornet where he was the “chop suey” second banana Kato to Caucasian actor Van Williams.

This stereotype casting was something Bruce Lee loathed, raged against the Hollywood machinery and which drove him to eventually take control of his destiny and star in “Fists Of Fury”, become the world’s greatest international martial arts actor and put Hong Kong-made Kung Fu movies on the map.

He transcended everything and everyone that had come before. Like a Beastie Boys song, Bruce Lee fought for his rights.

Cut back to horse racing in Hong Kong…

Perhaps it’s us who read what’s left of the English racing media with the SCMP recently losing longtime Racing Editor Alan Aitken and its dwindling coverage of the sport or trolling through Twitter for news. But like Rodney Dangerfield would say, “I get no respect around here” when it comes to local success stories. As far as the small group of English racing writers go, the subject matter almost always revolves around the aforementioned usual suspects. It’s nice and safe and usually bland. It’s corporate press release stuff.

Perhaps it’s different in the Chinese racing media? Perhaps there’s far more exposure and emphasis on jockeys Derek Leung, Keith Yeung, Vincent Ho and the three apprentices plus trainers like Danny Shum, Dennis Yip, Ricky Yiu, Me Tsui and, of course, Frankie Lor?

Not really, according to a group of local racing fans who regularly contribute content in Chinese online and somehow have instant news about stable transfers, are involved in a Facebook fan page for Douglas Whyte, and, last night over dinner, asked whether I knew the reason behind the withdrawal of the John Moore trained Rocketeer that had been entered for Sunday’s meeting at Sha Tin. I had no idea. They did.

Hmmmm, perhaps in all the rush we’re missing out on something obvious- not only for the grassroots racing fans, but also when it comes to co-mingling.

Other than effectively marketing local racing heroes, there’s an online world of difference in what’s read in English and the far more interesting discussions taking place in Chinese such as everything from the Rocketeer background story to reasons for the sudden decision for popular female apprentice Kei Chiong to retire and word that she may return…to host a television cooking programme. Really?

Still with local riders, how many, for example, remember that Alvin Ng first rode now Group 1 winner Time Warp, these days a regular ride for Zac Purton, to three successive wins starting at Happy Valley?

Who introduced Pakistan Star to the world?Local rider Matthew Chadwick.

Has Derek Leung tasting success by winning the Group 1 Hong Kong International Mile on Beauty Generation in December added more clout to his brand? How was that historic win marketed?

When it comes to simulcasts and co-mingling is everyone receiving as much information and “data” as possible so that there’s skill involved in trying to win instead of playing blind man’s buff and hoping for the best?

How many in Hong Kong know enough about racing in South Africa, Newmarket, Longchamp or America to wade in and try to win with any confidence? Not many.

How many really know about racing in Australia and have heard of Darren Weir or jockeys like Mark Zahra, Jamie Kah or Jason Collett or Regan Bayliss or Brenton Avdulla or Chris Parnham or…?

People also have short memories. In horse racing, these memories are even shorter. Just ask Douglas Whyte, former champion Hong Kong jockey for thirteen successive years. Ask Brett Prebble. Ask Olivier Doleuze.

Perhaps all this is why there’s a need for a far more “indie” racing media and a Hong Kong Racing Hall Of Fame tied in with the white elephant that is the Hong Kong Racing Museum, but known more these days as a drop off point for taxis?

We need a Racing Hall Of Fame to remind us about Hong Kong’s greatest horses- Co-Tack, Quicken Away, Silver Lining, Silent Witness, Viva Pataca, Collection, Indigenous Star, Fairy King Prawn, Good Ba Ba, Sacred Kingdom, first ridden in Hong Kong by Danny Nikolic, Elegant Fashion, Vengeance Of Rain, Able Friend, and Rapper Dragon.

A Racing Hall Of Fame to tell the world about the great jockeys who were part of the history of Hong Kong racing- Tony Cruz, Cheng Tai-chee, Bart Leisher, Gerald Mosse, Basil Marcus, Felix Coetzee, Philippe Paquet, Anthony Delpech…

A Racing Hall Of Fame to honour the trainers who took Hong Kong racing to another level- Brian Kan, Jerry Ng Chi- lam, Lawrie Fownes, the great Ivan Allan, below, David Hayes, Wong Tang-ping, of course, Tony Cruz, John Size, George Moore, John Moore.

Hear that sound? It’s the old ways of doing things crumbling. Who wants to do the same thing ten years later that was done ten years earlier and saying this is forward thinking?

For an industry that’s about others taking a gamble on their behalf, horse racing remains painfully risk averse. It clings to the past despite making mewing sounds about Change and technological advances that are nothing of the sort and talking to itself over and over again.

It’s like racing writers. There are the knowledgable ones and there are the rest-the Jimmy Olsens. There’s no New Journalism that Tom Wolfe brought to the world decades ago.

There’s no Hunter S Thompson of gonzo racing journalism to rock the boat, shine a light on horse racing and say, “Get real.”

Perhaps like it did by exorcising the ghost of what was “Sassy Wednesday” with something new and relevant in the Happy Wednesday brand, the HKJC can take another leap for racing kind by bucking the trend and thinking and doing things outside of the square.

The future of horse racing needs a makeover. It needs to be so bright one needs to wear shades.

Horse racing needs to show that it has a pulse.

#horseracing #HKRacing #HKJC #HongKongRacingHallOfFame #marketing #socialmedia #TomWolfe #racingmedia #KeiChiong

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