By Hans Ebert
The small stuff first: The real bummer about trying to find a winner at Sha Tin tomorrow afternoon is that Douglas Whyte doesn’t have a ride in the last. As has been proven, especially during the last two meetings, the Durban Demon has made these races all his. Saved his best for last like some of us do when playing Eyes Wide Shut. It’s kinky stuff.
Last Sunday, Whyte strolled home to win on Encouraging while on Wednesday night he made all the right moves to win the curtain closer on Dances With Dragons, a rare ride for trainer Peter Ho. And lest we forget, who won the last race of last season by “beating off” Joao Moreira and Zac Purton in one of the best finishes ever seen in Hong Kong? That is, a Happy Ending finish in horse racing.
On the subject of The Durban Demon, one can’t help thinking back to not that long ago when our American buddy Billy “Let Me Get Back To Ya” Nader, below, in his then capacity as the HKJC Executive Director of Racing, decided to get involved in being, well, a lyricist. Yeah, baby. Lyricist.
Thinking that the term “The Durban Demon” had run its course, Bungalow Bill thought singing about the “Whyte man” would go down a treat. Guess he had never heard of Kunta Kinte. Or Mandingo. Or the KKK.
Billy also wanted the word “Shatin” included in song. Billy is dangerous in a kinda goofy way when not planning an HKJC fireworks display. But he’s harmless.
Away from the “Joey” of the HKJC- “Hey, how ya do-in?”- it’s an interesting card.
Three first starters step out in the ninth race tomorrow. All have been purchased with dreams of winning the HK Derby in mind.
No, no, we’re not going back to that old chestnut about one Hong Kong owner being taken for a ride and ending up with his hugely overpriced Derby hope from WA eventually barrelling down to Class 4 and 1400 metre races on the dirt. This will not be mentioned again.
As for the turbulence and seeming lack of confidence by the government around racing in WA along with characters such as the humongous ego of Michael Grant, smooth talking, but terminally vapid Richard Burt, and one extremely good trainer on the move, stay tuned.
No, as for tomorrow afternoon, let’s stick to Hong Kong and people like billionaire Pan Sutong who has his nickel and dime new HK$13 million purchase named Gold Chest with Alexis Badel aboard running.
Now seemingly having his horses with two stables, this one is with Richard Gibson who got the horse racing business of PS off to a flier with Akeed Mofeed.
The stories of the opportunists trying to get into the good graces of the Ritchie Rich of horse racing could fill two novels. Nauseating stuff with zero style, let alone pride.
The other new million dollar babies are Furore and Patrick Lau’s very expensive new import Heavenly Thought, both trained by Frankie Lor.
Lor is certainly no one’s “understudy” anymore. Not after having two Group 1 winners with his first runners in Sunday’s World Turf Championships.
The one they probably have to beat, at least today, is the John Size trained Conte with Joao Moreira aboard.
After a leisurely stroll through Happy Valley on Wednesday, the magic man should be amongst the winners, especially in the last with the Zac Attack on Taking Aim possibly being his biggest threat.
The Rise and Rise of The Zac Phenomenon was discussed with a group of friends earlier this week. The general consensus is that he’s at the peak of his powers- not only as a rider, but as an astute businessman. He’s playing the game extremely well.
Someone asked if he might be tempted to leave Hong Kong and ride in Japan. Think he hasn’t?But what for? He’s got it all and more right here.
Does riding in Japan make one a better jockey? Very much doubt it. Watching Christophe Lemaire suffer from brain freeze on Deirdre in the Longines HK Cup on Sunday proved that there’s something to be said for going around what many dismiss as Hong Kong racing’s Class 5 “camels”.
It takes talent to be a camel driver. And win on them.
Plus, perhaps- just perhaps- the attraction of riding in Japan has very quickly dissipated? Perhaps it never existed? Perhaps it was Much Ado About Nothing except for Joao Moreira leaving Hong Kong for Japan? And he might again. But this time? Sayonara. To paraphrase Bon Jovi, it’s his life. No one else’s.
As for horse racing in Japan, the country has some great horses. The best in the world. Enough to feed the forty thousand? Of course not.
Racing in Japan, like every other racing jurisdiction, has more than its fair share of camels and cowboys. Many only mention the great ones. And so, myths are created. And a couple of legends.
Many only mention the great ones. And so, myths are created. A couple of legends, too- Deep Impact, Lord Kanaloa, Maurice, Sunday Silence.
More interesting to this writer- and who’s definitely not a “racing writer”- is seeing Hong Kong racing get its mojo back.
The four Group 1 winners last Sunday led by Beauty Generation has boosted the Hong Kong racing stock. And its image. Internationally. And its prestige.
It’s attracted new interest. Locally and internationally. But attracting and buying into something are two very different things.
For the HKJC, it suddenly has tangibles. Locally and internationally. Highly rated USPs. How the racing club uses these will be interesting. It has no options but to use these golden geese. To sell Hong Kong racing, both locally and internationally. And sell Hong Kong.
It’s all way beyond and DESERVES more than repetitious tweets by the usual suspects talking to each other. It’s not about those with zero clout to make any impact on those who might be owners like the next Siu, Hui and Kwok families, Johnson Chen, Patrick Lau and Pan Sutong of Hong Kong racing. When will people understand this?
None of these owners are on social media. Especially Twitter. Weibo, perhaps. The horse racing media and marketing landscape must change. It’s looking old, tired and flaccid.
Where’s the excitement going to come from? When are those on the outside looking in going to get the feeling that they’ll see a return on their investment?
Why spend money believing that the odds are stacked against them? Content is everything. Horse racing content? A non starter.
There’s suddenly a conga line of international trainers wishing to make Hong Kong their home. Some of the world’s top riders have paid their dues and are, in want of a better expression, “cashed up”. So, why not Hong Kong for a few years with its 15-18 percent personal tax on earnings?
Add to this, a lifestyle one cannot find anywhere else in the world
Some in horse racing in Hong Kong- and not only riders and trainers- have got extremely rich off the fat of this land. It’s something openly discussed. And about how now it’s separating the wheat from the barley corn.
The past is the past. No one remembers the Yesterday People. The Nowhere People.
Mediocrity and buffoons have no place in what could be termed Hong Kong Racing Revisited (And Revived).
#HKracing #HKIR #BeautyGeneration #HKJC #ZacPurton #twitter