By Hans Ebert

First things first…It might have been drizzling, but Irish eyes were smiling. This was when young Colin Keane, champion rider of Ireland, ran away with the first leg of the 2018 Longines International Jockeys’ Championship. Literally ran away with the race.

Despite drawing the outside barrier- supposedly not exactly ideal on the very tight Happy Valley track, especially over the 1000 metres of the race- Keane patiently allowed his mount to find its feet and the John Size trained Special Stars won eased down.

Having just its second start in Hong Kong after a good second, Colin Keane rode the galloper as if he had ridden the idiosyncratic city track all his life. It was the young Irishman’s first ever ride in Hong Kong. And it was a winner.

One really doesn’t think Hong Kong has seen the last of Colin Keane after this International Competition. He’s arrived in Hong Kong. Some riders in Hong Kong and finding it tough to find winners this season must be suffering from severe reflux at that thought.

Earlier in the night, young local rider Matthew Poon aka The Poon Train had steamed into the station with a back to back double by taking out races two and three. It was a great introduction to the racing world to someone who those in Adelaide would know very well- his last extremely successful port of call before returning to Hong Kong.

Breaking a frustrating number of outs was popular young South African rider Callan Murray who won the night’s opener aboard The Sylph for countryman and trainer David Ferraris.

After four races, the favourites and most tipsters’ choices had crashed and burned.

By the time rolled on for race 5 and the second leg of the Jockeys’ Competition, the trend continued.

Favourite Marvel Hero with Hugh Bowman aboard might have been slightly hampered at the start, but nothing could stop Brazilian Silvestre De Sousa and champion British rider leading all the way on Glory Star for rookie trainer Jimmy Ting.

This win put De Sousa at the top of the leaderboard. Second was Good For You with veteran American rider Javier Castellano aboard who last rode in Hong Kong at one of these competitions in 2006. Keane was amongst the place getters aboard CP Power which was heavily backed. Keane Power had come into play in Hong Kong.

Favourite backers managed to squeeze out a smile and breathe a sigh of relief when Country Star, the shortest price runner of the day managed to win for the combination of Hugh Bowman and that man John Size.

Chad Schofield on outsider Not Listening To Me gave the winner something to think about. It was a very good performance by both rider and horse. But Country Star is learning all the time and Bowman never panicked. He was the teacher and gave his ride a lesson in doing just enough to win and not impress the handicapper too much.

The third leg of the Jockeys Championship was the most exciting race of the evening so far. Javier Castellano tried to hold on aboard noted leader Curling Luxury, but Hong Kong’s Vincent Ho, though squeezed out at the start of the race, and in a very busy finish on Little Island, managed to keep away from what was going on to his right and rode his mount out to a very good win.

This was a huge moment in the career of a very much improved rider. The great Tony Cruz giving him a congratulatory pat on the back said much. Like, You can count on me for support.

Javier Castellano gained more points for coming second on a very wayward Mr Toad’s type of wild ride. It kept him in the running to take out the International Jockeys’ Championship.

Silvestre De Sousa’s third placing on race favourite All You Know gave him more points. It certainly looked as if the title was in his bag. It was when he won the last on outsider Experto Crede for those familiar red and black colours of the Siu racing empire.

It was a superb ride. It was a brilliantly consistent display of Group 1 riding throughout the night.

The night ended with those same colours taking out the last race. Karis Teetan on the Tony Cruz trained Super Chic won race nine and Edmond Siu and the Siu clan had another winning photograph for the wall.

Was it a great Longines International Jockeys’ Championship? Great, especially these days, is something that’s very far and few between wherever one looks.

Even Peter V’landys, The King of Racing New South Wales, laying another egg named The Golden Turkey as he continues to be the Donald Trump of horse racing with another disruptive toast to elitism.

Whatever happened to attracting those pesky “younger people”?

Back in Hong Kong, despite the constant drizzle, it was apparently an extremely entertaining night of horse racing on a Happy Wednesday night at the most unique racecourse in the world.

Not being in Hong Kong this year for HKIR week and watching replays online is very different to being part of the on course experience. Being with good friends and making new ones. Having fun together. Hanging out with some in the racing fraternity at Adrenaline at the post race party.

The band at the Beer Garden led by Jennifer Palor played on.

The Trackside team was as professional as always- Jenny Chapman and Andrew Le Jeune, the very good calls of Brett Davies, the earnestness of Tom Woods, the casualness of form analyst Paul Lally, the post race interviews conducted by Edward Sadler.

There was the obligatory fireworks display. International racing ambassadresses sashaying away to the music. The presentation ceremony. But…

Was the actual Longines Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Championship kinda lost in the shuffle? Possibly?

How these four races could be positioned as being extra special might need a rethink. How to give these races that red carpet treatment they deserve. How to make them more interactive. How they can attract and interest and be understood by Happy Wednesday regulars.

But this is just one person’s opinion. And opinions are like arseholes. Everyone has one.

Here’s looking at Sunday at Sha Tin and the Turf World Championships. Rain or shine it promises to be world class racing with some of the best riders in the world and a number of interesting back stories relevant and capable in moving those chess pieces forward.

#HKracing #HKIR #HKIJC #SilvestredeSousa #ColinKeane #VincentHo #KarisTeetan #HongKong #HappyWednesdayHK #horseracing

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