By Hans Ebert
Tweeting is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see…Sorry, where was I? Right. I was at a club straight out of a David Lynch movie where one of the worst singers absolutely butchered “Rolling In The Deep” while a buffet of Russian nymphets were marched in, sat there and waited for the local Tony Montana to walk in along with his tattooed posse, before doing whatever it is they’re paid to do.
I bolted as bad karma is contagious and went to my favourite bar to have one for the road before heading home. It had been a long Day For Night that even Truffaut would have had a hard time following.
There was a gentleman who sat there drinking his glass of red whereas I casually checked on Wimbledon and the World Cup. Neither held any importance to me. Federer was out of Wimbledon and I really didn’t care who won. I wanted Croatia to win the World Cup, but that didn’t happen.
What kept playing in my head all the time was the last race at Sha Tin earlier that day, where for around two minutes, three champion jockeys fought out a brilliant finish. One had to win and it was Douglas Whyte.
Life is full of ironies. While Hong Kong and overseas racing fans were gripped in the tussle for supremacy between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton in every race in which they competed, there came Douglas Whyte, the brilliant South African rider, who, under his belt, has thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Jockey Premierships to his name.
The night before, a bartender was telling me how well Whyte rode the idiosyncratic Happy Valley track when in his prime- the derring do of taking those inside runs like Moses parting the Red Seas.
Not being in Hong Kong at the time nor into horse racing to really understand or appreciate those early Whyte Years, here on the last race of the last day of the 2017-2018 Hong Kong racing season, that old Whyte magic had them in a spin, and he was loving the spin they- his competitors- were in. Sinatra was alive again.
Earlier in the day, while Zac Purton threw everything at Red Horse to get him home, Whyte, cool, calm, collected and never resorting to the whip, coaxed home Viva Council. There was no hiding Whyte’s satisfaction with the win.
As Steely Dan sang, Douglas Whyte was reeling in the years. Five races later came that three-way finish which became a two horse race to the wire between Joao Moreira, who was going for three consecutive wins, and the Wile E Coyote of Hong Kong racing. Age has not blunted Douglas Whyte’s will to win.
There was something wonderfully Arthurian and a modern fairy tale seeing the final ride in Hong Kong of the best and easily most charismatic and marketable jockey to ever ride here, match strides with a real legend of the turf, who, a couple of seasons ago, was being written off by some as Yesterday’s Man.
It was Sorcerer and Apprentice stuff. And during the rather lengthy presentation ceremony where almost everyone seemed to receive some kind of award- The Most Admired Overseas Horse? Please- what wasn’t missed by many was the mutual admiration society that exists between Joao Moreira and Douglas Whyte. It was great to see. Some of us saw it earlier.
Let’s give the jockey bashing a rest. It does horse racing a great disservice. And people wonder why the sport has a bad name and is constantly hobbled by that albatross called gambling?
Meanwhile, let’s never forget the magnificent role Zac Purton has played in making this Hong Kong racing season come alive.
His previous win a few seasons ago of the jockey premiership was good, but this one was something special. This was the year, he became The Zac Attack. The year he rose to the occasion and did the impossible: He came from well off the pace to produce a Houdini act of his own against the previously unbeatable Brazilian magic man.
As for that last race where some of us had the incredible good fortune to watch an Australian, Brazilian and South African fight out a finish in Hong Kong, well, it couldn’t get more International than that.
One doubt that this will be the last time we see these three riders in a similar finish.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…Really.
#HKracing #HKJC #DouglasWhyte #JoaoMoreira #ZacPurton