By Hans Ebert
It wasn’t meant to be the race meeting that it became, especially with many still suffering from World Cup fever, and it’s tough to know what was the highlight of the races on Sunday at Shatin.
Was it the complete mastery and domination of riders Zac Purton from Australia and Brazilian Joao Moreira who rode four winners each and battled out four Quinellas? It was much more than a “battle to the wire”. That would be too easy. It had to do with the pursuit for perfection and competitiveness taken to another level. Both riders should be applauded.
Was it the record breaking performance of Glorious Forever, the younger brother of Time Warp?
The emotional farewell to popular French rider Olivier Doleuze and everything he has given Hong Kong racing- those grand moments of impromptu flamboyancy and great association with some of the city’s greatest horses like Good Ba Ba?
Or was it that wonderful sense of déjà vu when first starter Pakistan Friend with Tommy Berry aboard stormed home from last to first like his more illustrious stablemate Pakistan Star?
Maybe it was all of the above. Perhaps with the Hong Kong racing’s Champions Awards being handed out on Friday at one of those black tie affairs we have never ever had the inclination to attend, it might be time to take the summer break to re-look and reshape the racing product? Everything can be better.
Perhaps it’s time to look at everything from making these Champion Awards more than they are along with aggressively and creatively marketing some of the exciting new gallopers who have suddenly ended up in Hong Kong?
Perhaps it’s about giving racing in Sha Tin some new on and off course Buck’s Fizz and continue to enhance and evolve the Happy Wednesday brand?
Perhaps it’s about making everything more than it is and a Group 1 world class product that’s seen and understood and appreciated by those outside of the inner circle of horse racing’s Twitter community?
Yes, there will be no Joao Moreira next season and it will be silly to think this void will be filled by a “replacement” as no one can replace the irreplaceable. But this is where and when there’s the need to improve and expand upon everything else.
Could, for example, the performances of Joao Moreira and Zac Purton be eligible for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records? Instead of making it something that’s here today and gone tomorrow and relegated to the racing pages, why not make these achievements something for the history books? A great USP for Hong Kong racing?
It’s the same question asked some years ago when Douglas Whyte had won ten of what became thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Jockey Premierships.
Asking and actually receiving answers and making things happen are two very different things.
Often, good ideas either fall through the cracks or are forgotten altogether because of clutter trumping priorities. The music industry is littered with a trail of very good ideas and what could have been. Where the technological long tail is not wagging the dog that actually owns all Rights to content.
What we often forget is that we’re in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is like no other city in the world.
Horse racing in Hong Kong became a reality when the horse racing in Shanghai was driven out during the Cultural Revolution.
The sport ended up in colonial Hong Kong and humble beginnings taking place once a week at Happy Valley. Today it’s what it is because of its own Long March.
As mentioned here many times, Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. It’s cosmopolitan. It’s exciting. It’s a city offering opportunities. Like it always has. To everyone.
No one here was born to ride. There are no horse farms. There’s no horse breeding industry. There are a couple of riding schools. Yet, look at how far this tiny city that’s part of China has taken horse racing.
Sometimes there’s a need to stop and think about the past before looking at the future because those sliding doors are often intertwined to the city that’s its home.
Horse racing has a habit of talking to itself and thinking everyone is listening. They’re not because we’re all different. We have a buffet of choices.
Am I impressed by the pomp and circumstance of Royal Ascot? Or the Cheltenham Festival? Or the Triple Crown? Or the Everest? Or some of the simulcasts like the Eclipse Stakes recently shown in Hong Kong? No. It’s not relevant to me. It’s not a James Bay concert.
I’m not an Andrew Hawkins, an extremely knowledgeable and passionate racing fan and racing writer who inhales racing around the world and loves it as much as Robert Duvall’s character in “Apocalypse Now” loved the smell of napalm in the morning.
Is “The Hawk”, someone whom I have yet to meet despite his 3-4 years in Hong Kong, a fan of the Happy Wednesday brand or ever been to Adrenaline at Happy Valley? Doubt it. That’s just how he rolls and that’s fine. Individualism is good.
It only underlines and re-enforces that when it comes to horse racing, there are the “lifers”, and, like myself, there are the hobbyists.
I’m also a Hong Kong Belonger. This is more important to me than anything else except for my marriage to music and everything else that’s creative. This is what I can and have helped bring to horse racing. Hong Kong horse racing.
Where horse racing anywhere in the world, or any commercial product or brand falters is when it stops looking beyond the obvious and regurgitates all that’s come before.
To stave off any signs of mental lethargy and falling back on Ye Olde School of thinking, surely it’s about constantly pushing the envelope and pressing the Refresh button? It’s not unlike Zac or Joao raising their game.
Hong Kong racing has come this far. Very far. More than any other racing jurisdiction except perhaps for Japan. It’s not there yet- wherever “there” is. But getting here- and there- is where the fun lies and the new adventures begin…
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