After last weekend’s racing of “progressive greyhounds” and where if one was not somewhere near the lead, there wasn’t a hope in hell of winning, it’s also where we saw some interesting “bits” of racing and some rather “fragile” rides by senior jockeys. One can only take this to mean that they were “saving themselves” for all the hard work and glory to be had this week.
There was the debut of French whiz kid Maxime Guyon who might not have won a race, but impressed us very much with his riding skills.This kid- forget the hype- is going to ride his first winner in Hong Kong toute de suite and already has local owners singing his praises.
There was The Ministry Of Silly Walks inquiry which turned into an objection into the second and third place-getters in race 5.
Sorry, but us mere mortals did not understand what all the fuss was about and why the “Inquiry” sign went up so quickly and which meant an almost-unnecessary objection having to be fired in.
The Chinese press have been quick to pounce on this plus what they see as some of the Get Out Of Jail Free cards being handed out by the Stewards in recent weeks and months to some of this racing village’s elders and a few “Untouchables”.
As for this inquiry, inquire about what exactly? Both horses shifted in under pressure and with the third-placed horse- ridden by young Guyon and using the whip in his left hand- insisting on going to the inside instead of the opening it had in front of it. In so doing, the horse got up the arse of Felix Coetzee’s mount.
Coetzee, meanwhile, was frantically waving his reins at Crown Witness and pumping up and down the horse and who also shifted in as, well, both horses wanted to go where the other was- and up each other’s arses. Perhaps it was love?
Then there was the fierce determination shown by Darren Beadman to win- what else?- the Cup race of the day- on 7 to 1 pop – the John Moore-trained White Jade.
It was a marked difference to the somewhat “chilled out” ride on odds-on pop and another John Moore-trained runner- Ming Hoi Treasure, again, something not missed by the Chinese press who are asking some pretty probing questions these days.
It was a race meeting most of us would rather forgive and forget and look to the card tomorrow and, especially, the four races that make up the International Jockeys Challenge.
Who do we see winning this? Brett Prebble should, judging by the rides he has, but we would go for Olivier Peslier, Dougie Whyte or. especially, Howard YT Cheng.
Meanwhile, in our ceaseless- and sometimes senseless- quest to provide you with more information than you might even need and more tidbits- sometimes inedible- to make racing more fun and breezy, we are devoting this week’s issue to all the International visitors in Hong Kong about what to do to win- on and off the track.
We also hope to provide you with just a better understanding of who the local punters rate- on and off the track- and how winners are grinners. And, sometimes, sinners.
We have been conducting our own “consumer poll” for three months and interviewing the most hard-boiled punter and casual racegoer, and trying for the life of us to figure out what goes through their minds and what tell-tale hints to look out for and which might shed some light on how to have fun and also win- on and off the track.
Hong Kong is an exotic city and so are the types of bets one can make. Sadly, many have no idea about them nor how to place them. It’s a teensy weensy problem in attracting new race goers and something which needs a complete rethink- for all racing clubs.
As for Hong Kong and exotic bets, the three which we think offer the best value for money are the Six Up,the Treble and the Double Trio races.
Sure, if you have a pin and some time for a small wager, there is the Triple Trio to attack, but for us, it’s a no-no. Having said this, the Triple Trio on International Day is often reasonably gettable so why not give it a try?
The Treble takes place in the last three races of each race meeting and the objective is to pick all three winners in these three races for a HK$10 or HK$5 unit.
The more combinations, the greater the chances of winning, of course, though we have seen quite a few sad instances where the investment was more than the collect.
One other thing: If coming into the last leg and you’re still “alive” and one of your choices or only choice runs second, you get the Consolation prize so do not throw away your ticket.
Then there are the designated Double Trio races. Happy Valley has two of them- in Races 3 and 4 and races 6 and 7.
Shatin has three Double Trio races- races 3 and 4, races 6 and 7 and races 9 and 10.
The idea is to get the first three place-getters- in any order- in each of the races. One way, we would recommend is a Banker or Standout in each leg and, to make it easy, three legs.
This means that your Banker must run 1,2 or 3 in the race and any of your other three legs must fill in the other two placings.
The cost per betting unit is HK$10, but you can flexibet it downwards.
Our favourite exotic bet is the Six Up which operates like the Straight Six in Oz or the Pick 6 in the US.
The idea is to find the six winners of, always, the last six races on the card.Do this and you have won the Six Up Bonus and which always pays a horn-a-plenty.
If all your choices have run second or all all your selections have run in the first two, you will still be entitled to the Six Up consolation- and depending on how many hot pots get rolled, can pay pretty well.
On International Day on Sunday, for example, a Six Up is a good bet to have as there may be horses in the various six legs- like Americain- which one can simply standout on their own and which means “betting up” on more than the HK$10 unit cost. Hell, go absolutely wild and bet a HK$20 unit.
Well-known Chinese fung shui factoid: If a jockey in Hong Kong has his head completely shaved, this means that, as he has been going through a luckless period, an important owner or group of owners has asked him to shave of all his hair to get rid of the “bad luck” plaguing him.
“Waaaahhhhh! Five gweilo jockeys with shaved heads!”
The one jockey we have spotted who has recently gone for the Mr.Clean ‘look’ has been Jeff Lloyd. Watch out for him to ride a winner today or on Sunday.
Jeff Lloyd before losing all his hair
Usually, this ritual works and the jock starts banging in a few winners. Last Wednesday, local jockey Howard YT Cheng sported a semi-shorn ‘look’ and brought home the bacon in race 3.
Old Punters Tale: French jockeys riding in Hong Kong pull their goggles down in the parade ring “when they are going”. We thought they just wanted to look cool.
This Old Punters Tale has been going on since the days when RS Dye rode in Oz and Hong Kong and who would keep lengthening and shortening his stirrups and then start gnawing at his whip as a sign- said many- that he was “going”.
Most ridiculous rumour: RS Dye’s new gig with a locally-based betting syndicate is responsible for all the last-minute plunges in Hong Kong. Where do people get this crap from? If true, “Dysey” would have bought Al’s Diner by now.
As for our poll, the casual racegoers only back those who they reckon are Hong Kong’s Three Most Handsome Jockeys. And who are these oil paintings? Topping our poll were Brett Prebble, Mark Du Plessis and Douglas Whyte. Sadly, even with his head shaved, Jeff Lloyd did not get a mention.
Brett Prebble: Handsome?
The Most “Charismatic” Jockey was Douglas Whyte, possibly due to all that heavy metal he wears on his wrists, the manly strut and piercing gaze. He was also voted The Favourite Jockey To Follow, something even other jockeys are often forced to do past the winning post- and much to their chagrin.
“Look at me, I am a handsome beast.”
From our side of the fence, no one rides the Happy Valley and Shatin tracks like “The Durban Demon”. The way, he can draw barrier 14 and have the horse running against the fence and in third or fourth place is like Moses parting The Red Seas.
This is not to be confused with Gerard Mosse parting anything.
Jockeys we follow at Happy Valley are Whyte, Prebble- but only if he is on a horse for Caspar Fownes- Zac Purton, and Tye Angland- the kid has won over the most hardened Hong Kong punters by giving 100% on everything.
We tend to follow the local boys more at Happy Valley, especially, Vincent CY Ho, Alex HW Lai- his first ride in a Group One race and winning it aboard Ultra Fantasy in Japan a few months ago has done wonders for his confidence- and the underrated Howard “The Duck” YT Cheng, below, who is having one helluva good season- shaved head or not.
If a race on the all-weather track, we’d have Olivier Delouze on our list. If he returned to Hong Kong, we would follow Felix Coetzee on any track, on water, quicksand and on any horse.
There’s plenty left in the old dog yet and when he fought off Douglas Whyte in one of their now-classic duels, this time on the weekend, “The Cat” made “The Demon” meow.
Jockeys we rarely follow at Happy Valley: Gerard Mosse and Darren Beadman.
Famous quip by a trainer to a senior jockey who took his horse about five wide coming around the bend at the tight Valley track: “Mate, did you stop off at McDonald’s to get yourself a burger?”
Voted Favourite Trainers named were John Size, Caspar Fownes and John Moore. Surprisingly, Tony Cruz did not make the list.
“Putha, man, I have a bloody headache”.
Then again, Putha Man has been having a rather odd season as has his former boom apprentice Matthew Chadwick who appears to have lost the plot somewhat.
Riding for Putha Man can have some strange effects on even the most hardened jockey.
Rumour Of The Week: Putha Man will try his best to persuade Felix Coetzee to return as his stable jockey.We would love to see this though we would also like to see Coetzee ride for whoever the hell he pleases.
Then again, rumours persist that the Rock-music loving Coetzee has been called up to replace Axl Rose in Guns’NRoses and to accompany Bob Dylan on the road as his co-lyricist.
The ‘new-look’ Felix Coetzee weighs up his options
Who are Hong Kong’s top tipsters? No one voted for anyone in this category and even we would not know who to pick. Perhaps like record reviewers, no one trusts the choices of tipsters today nor listen to what they say?
If forced to name one, well, he might not be the world’s best race-caller and he says some daft things and which we think is great as it gives a pulse to an otherwise moribund show, but Trackside’s Brett Davis has displayed some value-laden tipping talent. Or he just flukes it.
And if one can get hold of him, Mark Richards, new head of the HKJC’s International Sales, bon vivant, who’s your daddy, raconteur, and still managing to keep the Racing Club, well, racing. What actually happens there, we don’t know and neither do many of the members.
Mark Richards scans the horizons to his ever-expanding empire
Of course, there is Jenny Chapman who gives her paddock picks, but just remember that she is talking about horses that look good and healthy to her and nothing to do with form.
So, if there’s something you like and JC mentions- as she did last week- that its legs had “bruises and bumps” and the horse seemed to be “suffering from artheritc problems and is fat”, you might do well to leave it out of your bets.
Racing aside, the Jockeys With The Best Scent and deemed Most Sexy were Frenchmen Gerard Mosse and Olivier Delouze.
Women, we found, have a particular ooh-la-la fondness and nose for “The Parrot’s” cologne, his sense of style and man-purse. He hasn’t been married three times for nothing and nor has he squired some absolute stunners for fun. This is where “The Swordsman” just oozes class and rises to the occasion.
“Oui, my sword, oui, eet ees zees long, mes petits choux.”
Delouze also got high recommendations for his clothes sense and the fact that he is a black belt in some form of martial arts. Even we didn’t know that. As expected, trainer John Moore didn’t rate a mention in the clothes horse department.
“Jungle” John Moore models his Winter Collection
WHO’S WHO AMONGST THE INTERNATIONAL JOCKEYS
You’ve read the bios, you know the credits, you know the names, but how will the do in Hong Kong and, more importantly, how will they do during the International Jockeys Challenge and International Race Day.
Here are are two cents worth.
Douglas Whyte [HK]: As we have said, no jockey in Hong Kong right now rides both tracks as well as Whyte. He makes tough work look easy and, if possible, go back and watch his rides on his two winners last Wednesday.
The ride on Absolute Hedge should be made compulsory viewing to apprentices- and a few senior jockeys.
He has also won the most number of these International Jockey Challenges.
Brett Prebble [HK]: Strong, “punishing” rider from the Mick Dittman School of Enforcement and who has definitely made his mark on Hong Kong racing and a few welts on the backsides of horses.
Rides both Happy Valley and Shatin equally well and is at his best when riding for David Hall and Caspar Fownes.
Prebble and Whyte stopped sending each other Christmas cards long ago.
Our tip: Zac Purton will be a future champion Hong Kong jockey before Prebble.
Olivier Peslier [France]: Pure class, he can ride any track in the world in brilliant fashion and is very well experienced with Hong Kong racing. One of the world’s best and one of our favourites.
Intelligent rider and former winner of the International Jockeys Challenge. Wears nice manly cologne and carries a man purse.
Anton Marcus [South Africa]: Enjoying an enormous run of success in South Africa and who didn’t hold a candle to his brother Basil when riding in Hong Kong. Where there is smoke there must be fire and if the younger Marcus has improved since his days in Hong Kong, we would love to see it. Having ridden both tracks is a huge advantage.
Having said all this, why isn’t Felix Coetzee representing South Africa?
Joao Moreira [Singapore]: Singapore’s leading jockey who rides trebles and quartets for breakfast in the Lion’s City. We saw him ride recently in Perth and he was very good. Will he measure up in Hong Kong? Hmmm, dunno.
Ryan Moore [UK]: Very good jockey and probably more at home in Shatin than Happy Valley. If any horse is to be beat Americain, it will probably be the Moore-ridden Snow Fairy. Can he win the International Jockeys Challenge? No. He’s not in it.
Nash Rawiller [AUS]: Probably one the most improved jockeys in Oz and a good bloke. Strong rider and, say some local owners who claim to know the jock, he will be riding in Hong Kong soon. We cannot believe this.
The Nasher rides for Gai Waterhouse and we cannot see her letting him leave. Plus, he would be a bloody fool to give up Oz, even for a few months, to ride in Hongkers.
“Let me get this straight: You want to do whaaaaaaaaaaat?”
Julien Leparaux [USA]: Not since the great Gary Stevens has even one jockey from the US been able to make a dent in Hong Kong. Look at how long Aaron Gryder lasted.
Somehow, the ways of riding tracks in the States- get out in front and Do The Bustle- don’t work in Hong Kong.
We hear Leparaux has “great hands” and being French might help, but, we think, not much. Prove us to be full of merde, mon ami.
Christophe Lemaire [France]: Another class act and Group 1-winning jockey. Knows Hong Kong racing and can, as they so lazily write, “acquit himself” well. Lemaire, like Peslier, is all class.
Philip Robinson and Alan Munro [UK]: Crikey, are they still around???? Who next? Darryl Holland? Oh no- Wendyl Woods? Seb Sanders?
Formerly riding in Hong Kong on a regular basis in Hong Kong in the Eighties and Nineties, both are reasonably good jockeys in the UK, but really not up to the standard of the Whytes, Mosses and Beadmans.
Still, we keep hearing that Munro might come out to ride in Hong Kong for a few months and, if this happens, it is expected that he will have much stable support old mate Derek Cruz, who if anyone cares to remember, was one shockingly bad jockey.
Philip Robinson and Alan Munro
Frankie Dettori: Say no more. He is more than a jockey, he is a brand though deciding to name his chain of expensive Italian restaurants- “Frankie”- like some cheap New York pizza parlour- shows a distinct lack of marketing skills.
The flamboyant and affable jockey is all class- all the way down to his pink boots- one of the few men who can get away wearing these and still looking studly.
Piere Strydom [South Africa]: Rode in Hong Kong some years ago and likes to, well, come from the rear. Not for us nor the faint-hearted.
Jimmy Fortune [UK]: Has also had a riding stint in Hong Kong some time ago- and not a very successful one. Average jockey by International standards. Okay for the UK. Pass.
Michael Hills [UK]: Ditto
Mark Du Plessis: Somewhat underrated jockey. Not really sure what to make of him. Blows hot and cold for us which is better than simply blowing- or sucking.
Anthony Crastus [France]: Never heard of him, but he has nice eyebrows.
Craig Williams [AUS]: A bit too “gooey” and “sweet” for us on the personality front which makes us wonder if he is Basil Marcus’ long-lost Aussie bro, but a very good and ambitious jockey who talks alot.
Knows Hong Kong racing inside out and has strong connections with several local owners and stables. We would follow him in any of the non-International races.
Colm O’Donaghue [IRE]: No Kieron Fallon and Mick Kinane- now, there are two of our all-time favorite people on and off the track- but a very good rider in his own right.
Hiroyuki Ushida [JAPAN]: The “new” Yutaka Take and also Japan’s new Champion Jockey.He has ridden against the best- mainly in Japan. How will he fare around the tight Happy Valley track? We reckon he will be all at sea.It is not an easy track to ride- or read- overnight.
Davy Bonilla [France]: Well-traveled, workman-like jockey. Good, but not great.But, like that Donna Summer song, he works hard for the money.
Away from the jockeys, the Happy Valley Beer Garden got standing ovations from our Pollsters for its clean loos and “good vibes.” As one lady screamed into our ear, “Mate, if this was in Oz, there would be bloody fights breaking out every 10 minutes!”
Yes, beer drinkers in Hong Kong are a civilized lot even when pissed as a newt. The Beer Garden- and it really is the HKJC’s best concept- also rated highly as far as eye candy was concerned- for both sexes.
Some said that there were, from time to time, well, Wanchai floosies present and hunting for a few “Red Octobers”, but, surely not?Most of the guys there barely have enough dosh for three beers.
Speaking of Wanchai, after a few drinks, try Cinta in Jaffe if in the mood for some very good- and cheap- Indonesian and Filipino food. It’s the meeting and eating place for many girls before they head out to work, the place is unpretentious and the Beef Rendang and satay are excellent.
If lucky, one can watch the girls get up and dance by themselves to a ‘live’ two-man version the song, “Nobody” by the Wonder Girls as almost limbering up exercises before their long day’s journey into the night ahead.
As for the nightlife, after a a few vodka red bulls in your system and on caffeine overload, the even covers band in the area- mainly Jaffe Road- will sound just fine. Forget originality and Pink Floyd. But if you wish to hear some pretty good impersonations of whatever is Top Of The Pops, you’ll find it at Spicy Fingers, Neptunes, Dusk Till Dawn and the somewhat sad “gweilo” melting pot that is still Joe Bananas.
For late night revelers- and revilers- and just flat out laid-nighters, there is, of course, Escape- formerly Fenwick and where naughty Colombian females will size you up and down, lick their lips and flick their tongues your way as a form of salutations. Sometimes it can get scary.
Once at Escape, it’s all a bit like Hotel California: You can check in anytime you want, but you can never leave. So, roll with it and for the rest of the evening/morning, be prepared to be known as “Baby” by Filipinas, Thais, a few Ruskies and some Nigerians- watch your wallet with them- and look for the Adam’s apple. Once spotted, well, escape.
For those with jet-lag and still not having found anyone to call you “Baby”, there is The Bridge, the “Black Hole” and where time stands still. The joint is open until whenever and it is where you will find all those who have finished their various shifts and are free to do whatever they wish. Most simply wish to go to sleep- and do so in the chairs. Yes, often, this can be the Bridge to Nowhere.
If in the mood for a taste of Eastern European, Club BBoss in Tsimshatsui East- across the great waters and in Kowloon- has just welcomed a new “dance troupe” from the Ukraine.
One can watch the girls dance onstage- well, they just kinda walk around in time to the music- while the mama-san brings you a “company brochure” featuring photos of each girl and point at them while they kick their heels on stage so you can tell who is who.
They watch you watching them and one can see from their faces if they find the thought of going out with you to be quite a repulsive thought.Or a sure tell-tale sign is if they suddenly leave the stage.
Yes, it is all a bit like a horse auction, but look nonchalant when making your choices. Drooling will not look good.
Be warned, that taking out any of these girls will set you back over AUS$1- at least- and you might end up with one who only speaks in sign language.
We recommend a quick dinner in one of the many restaurants in Knutsford Terrace- Kowloon’s somewhat tame answer to SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong- and a quick dance and drink at Sticky Fingers which is not too bad a pickup joint and usually have one or two decent covers bands from the Philippines playing.
Yes, one needs to be a bit careful where you might take your date from BBoss. Their dress sense is not that great so walking into the Mandarin Captain’s Bar with her or even Al’s Diner in Lan Kwai Fong might not look too good. Mates will know you didn’t just bump into each other.
On the subject of Lan Kwai Fong, the old watering hole barely exists anymore though Al’s Diner remains, stubborn and proud, almost as a shrine to those days when RS Dye would hold court there.
Due to spiraling rents, the clubs, bars, restaurants have all been forced to close and move towards Wyndham Street and up from LKF.
Here you will find club after club which looks the same, play the same thump-thump LOUD House music and is full to the rafters with groups of people all happily co-mingling and with the best of these places being Solas. Give the others a wide berth.
If on your own and over 40, don’t bother going and trying to join one of these groups. Radiohead’s “Creep” will be playing in the heads of those you approach and you’ll be seen as a desperate old fart.
As for restaurants, Hong Kong side has the best. Our favourites: Guru, 13 Lower Elgin Street, by far our favourite Indian restaurant and without all that heavy ghee which makes you feel as if you have eaten a baby calf and makes you not wish to stand naked in front of the mirror.
A favourite with many in the racing fraternity, bankers, accountants, entrepreneurs, music execs, apart from the food, we all go there for its owner- Mr. Karki.
Leave it to him to order for you and, as the photos below shows, he will joining Hong Kong-based Aussie saxophonist Blaine Whittaker and going to Shatin on Sunday to support ace Singaporean sprinter Rocket Man.
Note: This and other “horsey” related t-shirts have been exclusively designed- and trademarked- to We-Enhance, the parent company of Racingbitch.
Then there’s Duescento Otto in 208 Hollywood Road which is the city’s new rave, upmarket and shee-shee restaurant though a few pass it off as “just Okay”. Call and they’ll tell you that they are booked up “the next two weeks”. This just might be pretentious bollocks, but knowing Hong Kong’s penchant for things new and groovy, it could be the truth. Too upmarket for us.
Also recommended is Wagyu in Wyndham Street which has some decently priced food, good wines and an extremely attractive and, thankfully, mature clientele including some stunning married types.
The best Thai restaurant? If you can get in and not seated next to a raucous hen party making clucking sounds and loud haw haw laughter, there is Tuk Tuk in Graham Street, SoHo.
Most over-rated restaurants: The Pawn in Wanchai, Felix at the Peninsula and most restaurants in Elgin Street in Soho. And for those to whom Bistro Manchu was once a favourite, don’t go there: The former chef has been sacked and the new bloke would not know how to make a decent plate of fried rice. When even the waiters tell you not to come, something is wrong!
Sadly, the smoking ban has meant that the Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt, once the meeting place before and after the races and anytime in-between, has lost all its fizz – and biz.
The new hotel bar de jour is the ultra-expensive Blue Bar at the Four Seasons and where the only real “benefit” is that one can have a smoke in the outside area. Once the ‘live’ music starts, be prepared to be propelled out of your seat. IT IS VERY LOUD JAZZ.
The “vibe” is nothing like that of Champers in its hey day, but it serves a decent lunch buffet and the free snacks during Happy Hour almost makes it worthwhile.
Missing are all the Mainland Chinese ladies of the night and friendly Russian business women who were part and parcel of Champers. Ah, yes, over the years, many guests took them to their suites for an early Christmas pressie.
Whether the action is on the field or off, or both, there you have it- Hong Kong and Hong Kong racing and what we know will be a fantastic two days of truly world-class racing.
There is no city like Hong Kong and despite the bitching at some of the daft promotional activities of the HKJC such as the appearances of pseudo-models as “DJs”, the bleatings of unheard of Canto-moppets and not doing everything it should be doing to attract new race goers, when it comes to the actual racing and the huge dollops of money gambled on it, well, it’s a winner by many lengths.