By Hans Ebert
Some people just can’t help being LOUD. And at the Champagne Bar of the Grand Hyatt, it was where many LOUD people congregated during HKIR week. Many from overseas. It was tough to take.
On Sunday, after the last race at Sha Tin had been run and horse racing’s “Woodstock Generation” was heading home came a booming voice how Hong Kong racing had “found its mojo again.” Maybe it had. Maybe it was just hiding. Often, it’s all about timing. Whatever.
Being a Hong Kong Belonger, there’s fierce pride in Hong Kong succeeding in whatever it does. This “success rate” has been in short supply in recent years. Businesses have started and gone under just as fast. Fun is hard to find. Even the famous Madras Chicken Curry at Jimmy’s Kitchen is a pale imitation of what it was.
This negativity goes back to the so-called Umbrella Movement and the fallout from those days.
Hong Kong today is a very angry city- frustrated, confused and concerned about its future.
Hong Kong remains a sharply divided city. So when jockey Douglas Whyte won the last race and clenched his fist in a rare display of emotion and determination, it “spoke” to this writer.
Maybe it also meant something special to the former champion jockey with thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Premierships to his name and who calls Hong Kong home.
That gesture by Whyte was not about Hong Kong racing finding its “mojo” or even its pulse. But a sign that we’re going to make it. Us in Hong Kong. That maybe one doesn’t need to leave and form a love cult in Sri Lanka and sell coconuts on a beach in Galle. That there’s work to do to get Hong Kong back on track. That horse racing and living in Hong Kong are so closely intertwined that it becomes the very fabric woven into a wonderfully unique city.
Hong Kong is not horse racing. Horse racing drives Hong Kong with the HKJC being its key driver.
What few will understand is the role horse racing plays in Hong Kong. It goes way beyond “mail”, nights out in Wanchai and with the usual suspects trying to out “big note” each other. That’s a sideshow straight outta Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s tolerable mild amusement though taxing at times. Does your head in.
These people will leave and return home with memories of Escape, Joe Bananas, Amazonia, hangovers and dime store hookers. Live and let live. They’ll be armed with stories that will be embellished. They always are. Embellished.
For those of us who live here, it’s time to get back to work. Work at looking ahead. And to move forward, there’s the need for Inspiration.
Sunday at Sha Tin provided us with this Inspiration. It went beyond horse racing and trumpeting figures that are meaningless to many.
The win of Beauty Generation emphasised the fact that The Beauty Is The Beast. The fact that it happened on the world stage of horse racing gave Hong Kong a USP. It should have been on the front page of the South China Morning Post. In lights. It wasn’t.
This world stage went way beyond whatever the horse racing media has written about HKIR week. That’s all very nice and expected. What’s needed is the unexpected. Like sending a message in a bottle to the world: Hong Kong is back with some very relevant and persuasive building blocks. Thanks to its horse racing. All the human emotion behind it. And how this is shown and presented beyond horse racing pages and programmes. Surely this is the challenge? To break new ground. To go beyond the obvious.
Does the HKJC realise this? Some at 1 Sports Road, do. Others will look at it as a win for Hong Kong racing, happy they played a small role in this success, and it’s then business as usual.
That’s short sighted thinking. This is much more than Twitter and 140 words or less of chest pounding. It had to do with Hong Kong winning- and against all odds.
Winning, yes, four International Group 1 races. Beating the foreign raiders. The exceptional wins of Beauty Generation. Mr Stunning. Glorious Forever. Exultant. Trainers Tony Cruz, Frankie Lor and John Moore. Jockeys Zac Purton, Karis Teetan and Silvestre de Sousa. It was about teamwork.
More importantly, it’s about keeping the dream alive. About a horse racing Dream Team that just might have woken up Hong Kong and brought about positivity.
Positivity that this city and home to many of us dearly needs. Today.
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