It was after the races at Sha Tin and I was at a hotel lounge surrounded by mainly expats wearing bow ties and talking loudly about “the locals”. Nothing wrong with this and power to the bow tie and the expat lifestyle enjoyed in Hong Kong with its expat packages and fringe benefits. Or is there?
Hong Kong might not be colony anymore but it still is in many ways with the local fat cats being the new taipans. Author James Clavell should have seen this new Noble House being built.
Being in this hotel lounge and suffocating from the pretentiousnes and pomposity of it all while checking my Twitter feed which was mainly from the flock about the horse races held earlier made me realise how we each live in such different worlds- even the supposed one world of horse racing.
Just as when it comes to marketing any brand, horse racing appeals to different customer segments for different reasons. One size and one communications strategy doesn’t fit or attract all.
For example, it only stands to reason that anyone interested in horse racing would be awestruck by another Zac Attack- this time five winners on Sunday after riding a Group 1 double in Singapore the evening earlier.
Zac Purton is in the zone and the pendulum has most definitely swung his way and to him riding off with this season’s Hong Kong Jockey Premiership, something that would never have been predicted at the start of this racing season following the complete dominance of Joao Moreira ever since he set his saddle down in this city.
For the magic man, it was always a case of how far- by how much further can he beat the runner up? How many of his old records that he created can he break? And then something unexpected happened this season: The Zac Attack.
Sunday at Shatin also saw Tommy Berry ride a much-needed treble. It had been 84 rides without a winner for the popular rider. To those following horse racing in Australia, it’s not easy to succeed in Hong Kong as a jockey. Being Australian is not enough. Ask Christian Reith, William Pike, the much ignored Michael Rodd, Glen Boss, from the UK, Tom Quealy of Frankel fame. The list is endless. Without support, without the Chinese racing media behind you, without the right horse- singular- you could be on a one way ticket back home.
One of the nicest guys in this cut-throat racing game, Tommy Berry was somehow offered the ride on Pakistan Star by owner Kerm Din, below, and trainer and former champion jockey Tony Cruz.
Tony is not just Hong Kong’s favourite racing son. He’s a jockey who’s ridden with and won against many of the greats of the turf- Piggott, Eddery, Cauthen, Joe Mercer, Carson…
There were plenty queuing up for the ride, but the Tony Cruz had made up his mind. Tommy Berry had successfully trialled the wonderfully intelligent Pakistan Star- twice- and the horse had approved.
On Sunday, Berry had ridden a double before getting aboard and giving Pakistan Star a free rein to run his own race in the Group 1 2400 metre Champions and Chaters Cup. All the homework had been done and it was now all about passing the next exam- and which he did with flying colours.
For Tommy Berry, it was the fillip he needed. After all, it’s been a long time in horse racing terms since his successful association with Chautauqua. All going well, Pakistan Star is his new Chautauqua. Maybe more. But let’s not put the cart before the horse and never forget the role Tony Cruz played in this success story- that unwavering self-belief in his skills to make the right decision. His support of Tommy Berry who must have wondered how this new partnership came about. Maybe he’s still wondering.
Earlier in the day and on his way to training a treble, “Cruzy” had offered the ride on Consort to visiting rider Oisin Murphy. Owned by billionaire Pan Sutong, one treads on eggshells when looking after one of his horses. It’s not about money. It’s about that priceless commodity known as “face”. No “face”, no respect and no bargaining power when it comes to big business. Pan Sutong is very big business.
Oisin Murphy rode a brilliant ride to slowly and slowly reel in tearaway leader and outsider Glorious Forever with Tommy Berry onboard and riding a very good tactical race. It was a brilliant finish and both jockeys should be applauded for their determination to win.
How and why did Murphy get the ride? Who knows? It worked. It’s often hard to follow the logic of Tony Cruz, but, more often than not, there’s method in his madness.
Horse racing in Hong Kong is very much part of what is probably the most exciting and international and multi cultural cities in the world- as multi cultural as Pakistan Star.
Here’s a horse purchased in Europe for Hong Kong, owned today by a Pakistani, trained by a Macanese, having first been ridden by Hong Kong born Matthew Chadwick, then Brazilians Silvestre de Sousa and Joao Moreira, winning his last start for William Buick from the UK, and on Sunday, taking out the Champions and Chater Cup for Tommy Berry from Australia
Hong Kong has seen it all. It’s come a helluva long way from being a barren rock. Horse racing has evolved with Hong Kong. Both share the same heartbeat. Horse racing is part of the city’s future. And on Sunday at Sha Tin, the future looked so bright one had to wear shades.
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