By Hans Ebert
A friend in horse racing describes him as “the Winx of riders”. Another calls him “freakish”. A racing executive, one of the few I respect, teases me that “The Cult Of Moreira” has, at least to me, become “The Cult Of William Pike”. He doesn’t share what he thinks is the “man love” for the Perth-based rider. Thinks. Following him in a race can be heart stopping stuff.
Especially after his spectacular show in the saddle last weekend where he rode four winners and outdid Moses by winning the Group One Railway Stakes from an impossible position aboard Galaxy Star, it seems like many in the racing world are finally discovering William Pike.
Of course, there remain the cynics. Those who continue to pigeonhole horse racing in Western Australia as something for the also rans. If only they knew. Maybe it’s good that they don’t. There’s no better hunting grounds for some of us outside that box in all of Australia for those whose whole focus is on winning. Who’s going to enter the world of horse racing to lose?
Getting back to William Pike, there still might be a ways for him to go emulate the feats of someone like Christophe Lemaire, especially when partnering a galloper like recent Japan Cup winner Almond Eye, or some of the truly magical rides of international names like Joao Moreira, Frankie Dettori, William Buick, Ryan Moore, James McDonald and a few others, but William Pike has arrived. And he’s re-introduced and also shone a powerful new light on horse racing in Western Australia. At least to those who are looking. Or are willing to look.
Having spoken to friends in horse racing for years about Paul Harvey, Clint Johnson Porter, Peter Hall, Glenn Smith, Patrick Carberry, Kyra Yuill, more recently, Chris Parnham, Lucy Warwick, and Tayla Stone, the great trainers like Neville Parnham, riders and horses who have come from WA, the feedback has always been the same: How they need to leave Western Australia to really make it- like Damien Oliver, Damien Lane, Mark Zahra and others have done. That riding in WA holds them back. How there’s nothing there for them. How it’s as bad as riding in Macau. That’s below the belt.
The Macau Jockey Club is the most financially successful horse racing club in the world. By continuing to regularly lose money. It’s all about working to a different business model to do with dry cleaning and laundering.
It’s only Douglas Whyte, below, who always talks about how much he loves Perth, riding in Perth, where’s he’s tasted different aspects of those Scales Of Justice, and the enormous talent of Pike.
If driven by ambition, William Pike could be anything. But he is everything to himself by being perfectly happy where is and his lot in life- his family and away from all the politics and stress that take its toll on so many riders. Up one year, down the next. And, if fortunate enough, getting out of the darkness and the enablers and finding the light again.
William Pike had a short riding stint in Hong Kong in the 2009-10 season. Being an unknown, winners were hard to come by. Still, he rode a respectable eleven winners.
The highlight was one meeting in Sha Tin when Douglas Whyte, who was then doing most of his riding for John Size, was suspended. No idea how or why it happened, but the astute Size gave three rides that would normally have been ridden by Whyte to William Pike. They were in the last three races on the card. Pike won on all of them. Bing bing bing.
While local owners and other trainers started to take notice of the young rider, he decided to leave. His partner was about to give birth to their first child and he needed to be with her. It’s all about priorities.
Horse racing, like many industries, seems to have lost sight of some key priorities. How it needs to be more than it is by continuing to do the same dance to the small and powerful handful of power brokers in the breeding industry to keep horse racing alive and kicking and creating that Group One image alive. Perception is key. It unlocks many doors.
It’s been written here before. About the OneMovement Music Festival in Perth. Having been a panelist at its launch in 2010, this festival could have given WA racing the “sexiness” and entertainment magnet it needs. And horse racing needs- at least in this region. It’s not a bad little region.
When OneMovement was launched it attracted something like 150 music acts, many from outside of Australia- Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Mainland China, India, Indonesia…
Because of the lack of a massive time difference between Perth and many countries in the region, and no time difference with Singapore and Hong Kong, everything seemed to be in place: a music conference on Friday, the day at the races on Saturday followed by two evenings of music at the quite wonderful Esplanade venue.
OneMovement promised to be a regular regionalfestival of music and horse racing.
The 2010 event was attended by some of the biggest names in music legendary artist managers, David Holmes who manages Coldplay, concert promoters like Michael Chugg, Keynote Speakers like the hugely successful songwriter Diane Warren who’s written hits like “I Don’t Wanna Lose A Thing”, “Unbreak My Heart”, “Because You Love Me”. It was the first time I ever heard Sarah Blasko perform ‘live’. She was brilliant.
After one more OneMovement Music Festival, everything collapsed. The main sponsor bailed and the organisers decided to cut their losses. No balls, no glory.
For all the talk about Aussie toughness and apparent lack of it these days, especially in its cricket, what one saw was shrinkage. Withdrawing instead of staying at the crease and changing the batting order.
Why hasn’t there been another and perhaps an improved version of OneMovement that really marries entertainment with horse racing? Especially when technology has developed in leaps and bounds in the past eight years?
Probably for the same reason there’s the usual bollocks talked by racing’s empty vessels about reaching “younger people” and which is bought hook, line and sinker by a compliant racing media Down Under happy to be twittering sycophants. But there are those who know. They’re playing a waiting game.
These are the people who see right through those who know squat about these “younger people”. Who talk incessantly and knowingly about understanding “them”. No one takes them on.
They also know those who are happy to be order takers. They’re out there taking down notes. They’re doing their research on the toadies.
It’s those having never worked in any other industry that gives this demographic what they think they want instead of what they they need. But when one doesn’t know, it’s back to playing the same old song over and over again with superfluous add-ons. These are the people calling the shots. Even though they’re firing blanks.
Give them the flick. Switch off from the non-stop gibberish allowed a license to carry on regardless on racing radio stations talking to the same old audience. All that Beavis and Butthead jibbering is part of the problem. They offer zero solutions.
So is not looking in the direction of those who have the experience and the smarts to look at horse racing with fresh eyes, see what’s missing, and work with those racing executives who realise that they don’t know everything. It’s called teamwork.
For horse racing to have a future, there’s a need to rip up that old disorganisation chart and start with a clean slate.
The old horse racing business model is just that: old.
Time to make it new again. And exciting. Make it more than about the punt. That just sounds desperate. And grubby.
Let’s not have than another round of “integrity issues”. We should all know by now that these will never go away.
Someone will make this good stuff for racing happen. Soon. And horse racing in Perth starring William Pike just might be the draw card and the one movement needed.
#WilliamPike #horseracing #WilliamPike #OneMovement #music #marketing