By Hans Ebert
In a rather sombre video to create an almost film noire mood for the upcoming Hong Kong Longines International Jockeys Championships, over what sounds like the soundtrack to “Taxi Driver”, appear the words, “Champions collide while darkness falls”. Easy chaps. And lighten up. One hopes no one collides with anyone. It could get a tad messy.
What’s interesting about this evening’s races, other than trying to snag a couple of the huge jackpots up for grabs, is wondering who will fill that last berth to represent Hong Kong in the “darkness”. Chad Schofield or Douglas Whyte?
At the moment, Whyte holds a slight edge leading by a winner and more second placings. The Chadster has an excellent chance of levelling things up by winning on Khaki in the third race. It might come down to the wire when more darkness falls and the two South African riders do battle in the last race of the night- Whyte on Iron Boy, and Schofield on Telecom Brothers, both of which have excellent winning chances.
If Douglas Whyte turns out to be the victor in this kinda important side show, one can’t help thinking that an appearance in the HKIJC might lead to an announcement regarding the legendary rider’s next career move. It had to happen. So why not announce it with the right amount of theatrics as fireworks explode overhead and a few jockeys cower at what this could mean?
If history has taught something to many in racing in Hong Kong is to never count Douglas Whyte out. Some refer to him as Sir Douglas. There’s no substitute for experience. Experience in being a champion. A great ambassador for Hong Kong racing. For so many years.
Along with experience and professionalism comes control. Control is a powerful tool. So is having thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Jockey Championships in one’s portfolio. Those titles aren’t twiddlywinks. They’re massive IOUs. A winning hand.
As for the night when champions will collide in the darkness of a Happy Wednesday, already confirmed to represent Hong Kong are Big Daddy Zac “Cassius” Purton, Vincent Ho and Karis Teetan. The Mauritian Magician has, alas, lost one of his big rabbits with connections hoping that William Buick, as he did last year, can work the oracle again and find Pakistan Star’s mojo.
The enigmatic one’s mojo has gone walkies this season and the call up for Buick is not exactly a monumental surprise. The question is whether this will have the desired effect on Pakistan Star. And if it does, then what? Keep flying in William Buick every time the horse runs?
One really hopes the HKIJC night is truly an international celebration of the very best in horse racing- colourful, vibrant, FUN, hugely entertaining. With fashionistas. Selfie competitions. Conga lines in the Beer Garden. Having someone like Hannah Butler in the mix.
Rolling out the red- very red- carpet to the new generation of racing fans. Those Happy Wednesday racing fans looking at what’s unfolding in front of them with new eyes and refusing to buy into a corporate buffet.
Missing from the lineup of world class riders on HKIJC night will be Joao Moreira.
He becomes a “free agent” after the end of his contract with the JRA on December 9. On Sunday, he made a cameo appearance at Sha Tin. Expectations for him to hit the ground running were high. Too high. He can’t walk on water. Yet. And when after seven races, Joao Moreira had yet to ride a winner, the natives became restless. The Brazilian didn’t flinch. He had work to do. He returned serve by riding the next three winners. He was the magic man again.
What’s always been interesting about Joao Moreira are his PR skills- his ability to win people over with a quite incredible sense of disarming charm. He makes the fact that English is not his second mother tongue work for him. Especially in this bilingual city of seven million people. It’s that word again: Likability.
Yes, the way he left Hong Kong for Japan was a little abrupt whereas those “exclusives” to former SCMP racing writer Michael Cox became a wee bit tiresome. But times change, everyone works to personal agendas and it’s refreshing- and ballsy- for the Brazilian magic man not to apologise for anything. It’s also his prerogative to mention as much as he wants about the role his family played in his decision to return to Hong Kong. And not waver from saying that nothing has changed with regards to his dream of eventually riding in Japan.
The bottom line is that Joao Moreira and the HKJC have agreed to try and make things work for both sides. It’s not anyone else’s business.
Looking at HKIR week, apart from the expected, one has always hoped there could be a special session leading to a working lunch where those new to horse racing and with questions could interact with, yes, racing executives like the CEO of the HKJC. But also with leading riders and the personality of Frankie Dettori.
A trainer with the effusive personality and people skills of Gai Waterhouse.
Someone like Simon Fuller who owns X1X Management, the global sports management company that guides the career of David Beckham and has worked with Andy Murray and Lewis Hamilton plus sponsors like Red Bull.
After 3-4 years of mentioning it- and the idea falling on deaf ears- it’s probably time to go it alone. Make it happen and take ownership.
Does the future of horse racing need this? The need to look outside the square? To listen to new voices? Those with new ideas? You bet.
#HKracing #HKIJC #marketing #ChadSchofield #DouglasWhyte #JoaoMoreira #SimonFuller #FrankieDettori #GaiWaterhouse #horseracing