Racing writer Alan Aitken wrote an interesting piece in Hong Kong’s Morning Post last week. It was a very looooooong piece that went from the win of Dim Sum at the Lunar New Year Meeting to the local constabulary making money off the fines they keep collecting from those who illegally park at “the ramp” to the Shatin racecourse and then cut to the jugular and went through a lengthy dissertation on horse racing, in particular, and gambling, in general, in China,how the glory days have returned to Macau and with the casinos over there giving each other five-highs. Whew! It was like riding the jumps with Mark Richards.
Anyway, as we all know, including our Chinese mates and staff, Chinese love to gamble. On anything. It is part of their DNA.
Despite the “gambling ban” in China, where there is a will, there is a way, and BILLIONS are being gambled on various football leagues every time there is a match played through illegal bookies operating in China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia- a “mecca” for illegal bookies as they give better odds on football- or so we are told- and Malaysia.
Of course, these illegal bookies, don’t stop at taking bets on football. Horse racing is high on their Top Of The Pops.
Go to Beijing, or Guangzhou, not Shanghai so much, Wuhai, or Hunan and there will be plenty of old hardcore gamblers going through the racing forms for the Hong Kong races.
They know all about Hong Kong horse racing, they certainly punt and there are some HUGE punters on the Mainland, many of whom gamble “legally” and through telebet accounts and their “people” in Hong Kong and Macau.
If anyone thinks many of the recent plunges at the Hong Kong races are not coming from “China money”, they are living with the pixies and the fairies.
Gambling might be “banned” in China and there maybe horse races held as “lotteries” in places like Hunan and Wuhai and where there are refrigerators, woks and rice cookers to be won, but “real” horse racing will happen in China- and in stages.
How quickly will these “stages” be “released” is the question and, from where we stand, these will be much quicker than people think. No country anywhere wants to see all these BILLIONS of dollars going to illegal sources.
Running a country is not unlike running any business and only an idiot would not put up some form of resistance to the barbarians at the door- and online.
Sure, Hong Kong will always be important to Hong Kong horse racing, but one needs to understand just how much business Hong Kong does in China, the amount of time many in Hong Kong spend today in cities like Beijing and Shanghai and how the latter is leaving Hong Kong for dead, dead, dead, when it comes to money, clubs, all things fashionable and some of the most gorgeous women in the world.
Shanghai was the Paris Of Asia in the Forties and it is all that and more today. Hong Kong looks and acts like a pauper compared to Shanghai. All this has a marked bearing on Hong Kong racing.
Exactly how and when those running China “introduce” racing to the country while still trying to keep to its “doctrines” is not as up in the air as people think.
Right now, it’s not about finding any “legal loophole”, it’s about China finding a PR plan- a spin– to allow gambling to take place.
Should horse racing in China, for example, start by “racing for charity”? Or, should the country whack its balls on the wicket and say, “What’s past is past” and turn everything around with one almighty spin and just say that it is the ONLY way of fighting all the illegal sources- and then taking these pariahs out and blowing their heads off?
China works in mysterious ways and once horse racing starts up in that country- and, in case you missed our point- it will– be prepared for the gold rush.
Already, we have a very long list of former trainers and jockeys from Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, the US- yes, and from Kentucky- and Oz who have already opened shop- some have “opened book”- in China and are biding their time selling riding equipment and racing “supplements” for horses.
They have been doing all the groundwork for over a decade and are waiting anxiously for the floodgates to open.
They are not just idly waiting either. Already, they have befriended quite a few wannabe Chinese horse owners and are making millions on taking this “China money” and buying hundreds of horses racing throughout Oz under some very familiar non-Chinese names to punters.
This is especially true in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast where this same “China money” has been invested in property.
Yes, “China money” is everywhere and if only everyone knows who really owns some of the horses running in Oz- and the UK- and New Zealand- and Macau, Hong Kong and Singapore.
All those bores- and boors- who talk incessantly about how much money they make on their “mines” and how many horses they have bought, they are chump change to “China money” and which stays with the Chinese on the Mainland who decide when and where to spread their wealth.
AUSSIE OWNERS STILL IN LA LA LAND
He’s been in La La land for some time now and it appears that the summer break has done little to cure Owners Association President Andrew “la la” La Fontaine from making a fool of himself and embarrassing the Owners Association.
His latest “pearls of wisdom” were again directed against Racing Victoria and its CEO Rob Hines, and the reason – the extension of Hines’ contract for another 15 months by the Board.
Now, let’s get something straight: The Australian racing industry is bereft of quality leadership and has been for many years. But, in Hines’ case, according to Melbourne sources, he is a few lengths in front of his three predecessors.
The contract extension, apparently, is all about stability with the new wagering contract for the Victorian racing industry to be finalized within the next few months.
There is also the complete dogs breakfast that is the product fee war between Racing NSW and the corporate bookmakers, which, thanks to La La and his vice-president Jonathan “The Munzter” Munz, their mates from NSW and in particular Philip “Mr Inspid” Esplin, has quite unnecessarily dragged Racing Victoria into the mess.
The spotlight needs to be turned on La La and the Owners Association and what if anything they do for Victorian racehorse owners.
Last weekend when we visited Melbourne and attended the Orr Stakes meeting at Caulfield, we spoke to many owners and trainers and some prominent Victorian racing identities, and quite clearly the Owners Association is on the nose and has a massive identity problem amongst its own constituency.
Some owners though it to be defunct, remembering when it actually stood for something and promoted racehorse ownership and was a socially active group and not just a partisan and divisive part of the Victorian racing community.
Playing the man and not the ball, as one prominent racehorse owner told us is very much the mantra of the Owners Association in recent times since it was hijacked by the Munzter and his mates.
Playing the man and not the ball is also a common tactic used often to divert attention and in particular “mask” absence of a coherent argument to back up a policy or strongly articulated view.
We have little sympathy for Racing Victoria, who, from what we are told, still subsidizes the Owners Association for about a hundred large ones each year. It’s really pathetic for an organization to fund its enemy. It would be like Israel bank rolling Hamas, so it can buy all the weaponry that is needed to bomb the crap out of the Jewish State.
We wonder if Racing Victoria has ever conducted an audit of the Owners Association and the use to which these funds are being put each year. Wouldn’t Victorian racehorse owners be better off if this money was tipped into say two or three $35,000 maidens in the country to give battling owners a chance at getting some real bucks into their pockets?
It is staggering to think that Racing Victoria has not come clean on this farcical arrangement, if, for whatever reason one exists, formally or informally.
In NSW and in Victoria and certainly in all other States, the challenge to build the pool of racehorse owners is becoming more and more a climbing Everest type exercise.
Having raced horses and mixing with many owners from all spectrums of the social and economic scale, it is a costly exercise with absolutely no guarantee of any returns or even breaking even.
Surely the Committee Members of the Owners Association are not that buried in the sand that they are oblivious to their Association being hijacked for the agendas of a few?
It is time the Owners Association turned its focus on doing something worthwhile and tangible for racehorse owners, rather than carrying out a vendetta on the organization that gives it oxygen. It’s called biting the hand that feeds you.
MAXIME GUYON: HE’LL BE BAAAACK!
Maxime Guyon leaves Hong Kong after his brief stint in Hong Kong and will be back again during the winter months in Europe.
Like Christophe Soumillon before him, Guyon has won over the local media- very important- and which means winning over the local owners who then tell, especially, the local trainers, to “Get That Guyon My Horse”.
This has been a successful stint and it would be churlish to compare Guyon’s months here with those of other jocks who might have had “more successful stints”.
Times change, as does the quality of horse flesh, trainers and the competition within the riding ranks.
All we know is that if there were any surprises, it was a talented young rider like Maxime Guyon finding out that Hong Kong racing is not made up of hack riders and that “wunderkind” tags matter squat.
We understand and speak our “Francais un petit peu” and know very well that the young rider was quite taken with, and humbled and even baffled when he was out there competing with the likes of Douglas Whyte, Mosse, Beadman, Prebble and Zac Purton.
Sure, he can go to Japan and make squillions. But he is smart enough to know that riding in Hong Kong makes- and has made- everyone who has ridden in the place- Craig Williams, Michael Kinane, Michael Rodd, Felix Coetzee, Basil Marcus etc etc- a far better all-round jockey. And nothing is worth more than experience.
LET THE SUN CHEYNE IN [AWFULLY PUNNY, WE KNOW]
He is hardly a “glamour jockey”. And he, no doubt, gives toss about being one. But in his quiet, unassuming way, one forgets just how much South African jockey Greg Cheyne has done with the handful of good rides he has been given since coming out to Hong Kong: He has won on most of them.
Last Wednesday, he won on two of them, both for the Tony Millard yard- another quiet achiever- including the Cup race that evening. On Saturday, he won this fourth race aboard Public Figure and full credit to trainer Almond Lee and the owners for not replacing Cheyne with a more “known” jock. If the wheel ain’t broke, why fix it, indeed.
Greg Cheyne has ridden ten winners so far this season and 16 placings with a handful of rides. He gives 100%, he doesn’t cut, swerve and ride like a mad man. When he rides a winner he doesn’t stand up on his irons like Geronimo holding up a few scalps for all to see and nor does he fall to the ground and try to impersonate The late Godfather Of Soul, James Brown.
We like all that in a jockey.
OOOOH, THE CORPORATE BOOKIES ARE THE BOGEY MEN?
We’ve heard all the same crap for far too long from Racing NSW and their mates and the Victorian Owners Association about the dire threat to the funding of racing posed by those “venomous” corporate bookmakers and betting exchanges.
The reality however is that the surge in wagering that has occurred over the past decade or so would not have been possible had it not been for the proactive business and commercial skills of the corporate bookmakers in popularizing on-line and internet wagering and introducing new wagering products and rebates for their major punting clients.
All of this has been possible while racing’s governing bodies and their Tote operator partners – the dozy gits at Tabcorp and Unitab and the other State Tabs have lived in their comfort zones, oblivious to the massive leakage of billions of wagering dollars to the collective pockets of the non-tote fraternity– the corporate bookmakers.
Belatedly, the Tabs and Racing Governing Bodies have embraced such “no brainers” as fixed odds betting and have lobbied State Governments to change legislation to allow them to operate in “level playing field” environment. But, the horse appears to have bolted as these slick and savvy corporate4 bookmaking operations have stolen a march on their traditional high margin Tote operators.
The convenient doom and gloom arguments that are paraded by the Totes and Governing Bodies about the predatory nature of the non-tote operators and the damage done to racing from the trickle of funding from product fees is of their own doing.
Any rational and unbiased analysis of wagering figures from the past decade or so shows that wagering is close to being Australia’s number one sport growing at an unprecedented rate. And yet, the racing industry has been famously unsuccessful in tapping into these rivers of gold which has been flowing southwards and away from the racing industry and into the bank accounts of the corporate bookmakers.
Negotiation and compromise– the basic staple diet of resolution of any dispute or areas of potential conflict, in business, political, social and family life have been given an almost life long sabbatical as the racing industry has locked horns with the very genesis of the surging wagering growth – the corporate bookmakers.
Instead of embracing the growth of wagering and encouraging the continuation of that growth, sections of the industry have chosen to make life as difficult as possible for those that they should be partnering with to fend off the challenges of sports betting, gaming and a plethora of very attractive alternative pastimes and betting options that technology has so far bequeathed society.
Again, talk about biting the hand that is feeding you.
Imagine what could be achieved if the racing industry partnered with the non-tote corporate bookmakers and maximized the lucrative commercial returns from wagering. The pie in the sky $100,000 minimum prize money for Sydney and Melbourne racing, which Peter “the not so great” V’Landys keeps prattling on about may actually become a reality.
In reality, the main threats to the funding of the Australian racing industry are not the corporate bookmakers. It would be simple to fix the problem, if it was.
No, the main threat is the industry itself and those within it whose self-interest and agendas together with their blurred vision and outdated short term view of the world is holding Australian racing in a vise-like time warp.
We ask you, would you buy a used horse from this man?
WHO’S THE BIG DRAMA QUEEN?
We understand from our sources- and sauces- in South Africa, that jockey Weichong Marwing was very well-known for his “cameo appearances” at tracks. It was all a bit like, get one home and then go all faint and dramatic and call out, “Oh, dear, call the doc someone, mah wing’s eyes are seeing stars.”
Well, as we said in the last issue, though we “feel” for Marwing, his almost continuous bad luck and this habit of falling ill at the races, but we would rather he pull the pin on an entire meeting and just stay home instead of coming to the track, riding a winner and then crying off from riding the remainder of his rides.
Take some lessons on The School of Hard Knocks from Tye Angland, Weichong, and don’t keep wimping out like a girlie man.
We now hear that, apart from the dislocated shoulder, Angland flew all the way to Oz to be Best Man at Grant Buckley’s wedding with also a fractured leg.
BITCHBACK OF THE MONTH
I have supported the HKJC for almost three decades and take great pride in bringing my overseas business partners to the races in Shatin and Happy Valley. The service, the cuisine, the facilities are top-notch and most Westerners have never been to racecourses like these.
As a private members club going racing in Hong Kong is superb value and a splendid social event.
When it comes to actual horse racing, despite some cosmetic changes, there are very few new additions over the past few years that have made any real impact.
I cannot even navigate my way through the HKJC website. It has TOO much content and information!
My kids have seen the club’s Facebook pages and do not see the value of them either.
I have to “bribe” my kids to come racing with me. Two are in their Twenties and my son is in his Thirties and they complain about “the dead air” at the races.
They joined the club’ s Racing Club but they and their friends have tired of it. It was an excellent initiative, but what good are initiatives if no one takes the initiative to take a good idea and make it work and progress?
There is nothing to interest them and the last thing they want to do is hang around with their old man and his friends and stare at the odds and discuss previous races. Cannot there be something for other young racegoers like them to enjoy?
You have repeatedly mentioned that these future racegoers need to know how to bet and I hope those in charge of the club are listening. My kids do not have a clue how to bet and make betting entertaining without all the hard facts and statistics. They now take their money and lose it after two races and then want to leave!
It is like all those people who frequent the Beer Bar at Happy Valley. I took my kids down there to see if they would enjoy it more than being upstairs with me and my friends, but they were not comfortable with the most of the people there and wanted to leave and go meet their friends in a club.
Looking around at the Beer Bar no one was betting as I think they also did not know how to or did not plan to have a bet and instead wanted to save their money for beer and get drunk quickly.
This Beer Bar could have been just another bar at Lan Kwai Fong or Wanchai.
I truly like the writing style and information you give but you must also be knowledgeable about what the Chinese racing media is writing about.
Perhaps you are friends with champion jockey Douglas Whyte but l have noticed that you never criticise him. You should.
Apple Daily, for example, are no fans of Whyte and some of his recent rides have been peculiar. I am not a jockey, but he seems to want to run up against other horses and then pretend he is in trouble. Maybe I am wrong and so is Apple Daily?
Other jockeys like Marwing, Mosse, Beadman, Howard Cheng, Doleuze and Jeff Lloyd, my friends and I can never follow and hate backing whatever they ride. They are too unreliable. The only jockeys we think try all the time are Angland, Cheyne and Guyon but apart from the French kid, the other two do not get the support they need.
In closing, I would like to congratulate you on your publication and hope the HKJC understand that they are still behaving as if the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club and need to think much “younger” and understand that they need to do much more to attract the next and new generation of Chinese racegoers.
SPOOKY AD OF THE WEEK
Honestly what is this ad trying to say? “A Leader Always Stands Out?” Huh? What “world class event?” What “crowning of a champion?” And subscribe to what? Whaaaaat?
“The Racing Club. The newest membership of the Hong Kong Jockey Club”?
Who wrote this gibberish- this absolute dog’s breakfast of an ad? Couldn’t they have filled in more crap into this piece of “communication”?
What happened to KISS- Keep It Simple, Stupid. This is just Keep It Stupid. Oh, and 1010 is actually pronounced “1 Oh 1 Oh”.
Jeez, and someone who knows bugger all about racing actually got paid for creating this monstrosity?
SPOOKY REACTION TO SPOOKY AD OF THE WEEK
“OPEN SEE SAME”
We thought we were the only ones to be asked by local punters in Hong Kong about a horse called “Open See Same”.
Listening over the weekend to Darren Flindell from Hong Kong’s Trackside team, however, we now realize that this is almost a common occurrence.
The “Dazzler” has also heard about Open Sesame- or, as it is more popularly known in Hong Kong, “Open See Same” and happened to mention this just before handing over to race-caller Brett Davis and a race where “Open See Same” was running. If “The Scarecrow” got the giggles, gawd knows what the call would have been like.
Honestly, the HKJC really is under-utilizing this team. They are just so, well, bloody weird, that the team should just be allowed to go wild and let rip and give those awful shows they trudge through week after week some balls.
We love it when Flindell loses his rags and yells out, “Who is that idiot yelling from the grandstand?” It’s also what we want to know: Who are the idiots screaming in the background?
We love it when he lets out a huge “f*** it” moan which signals a 80 to one pop getting up and f***ing up our six up, too.
We know how he feels when he sees a head-on of a race and watches all the horses being “directed” into traffic jams. Watch Races 2 and 3 from the weekend- if you dare.What a mess. What a buncha “idiotic” rides. Or smart ones.
We enjoy Brett Davis, “The Scarecrow” in the team, talking crap and, quite often, tipping something at 30s and having the last laugh.
Brett Davis hears a tip coming through
We enjoy “Dorothy” aka Jenny Champman trying to make herself heard over microphones that always don’t seem to work. Who said that the “god person” is in the details.Not the “producers” of these “shows” and which, a few weeks ago had the ‘live’ English broadcast in Mandarin for over 15 minutes. Gremlins.
The HKJC has Monty Python’s Flying Circus and don’t know it. It’s a reality show waiting to happen and which any channel in Oz- non-racing channel- will lap up.
MAKE IT A DOUBLE
It was a day of riding doubles at Caulfield last Saturday, highlighted on the equine front by reigning Horse of the Year– Typhoon Tracy’s magnificent back to back group one win in the Orr Stakes.
The jockeys – Craig Williams, Michael Rodd, Mark Zahra and Luke Nolen dominated the nine race program and they all put in faultless displays. Michael Rodd in particular rode like a man possessed.
His ride on Rain Shadow a lesson in timing, his ride on Catapulted, an eleven out of ten, not panicking and using all his renowned strength to push through a gap which was split second and to do while maintaining his mount’s momentum was a great combination of skill and horsemanship.
The next day he won the Hobart Cup on 8 to 1 shot Bid Spotter, pictured far left below.
Nolen, Zahra and Williams keep showcasing their skills week after week in Victorian racing and reflect the great depth of the riding ranks in Victoria.
And while we are on jockeys and great rides over the weekend, let’s not forget Douglas Whyte’s masterful ride on Lucky Blue in the last at Shatin on Sunday.
From the wide barrier fourteen, Whyte used the lightly raced gelding’s early speed to his advantage to cross the field cleanly and set up a tempo to suit himself. Quick! Someone show the film to Weichong Marwing!
Whyte had him in cruise control coming to the turn into the straight, saving that little something when the pressure would be applied over the last decisive 100 or so metres. But it was not necessary: Whyte had stolen the race and in so doing, gave the Jockey Club the perfect template to use in the apprentices school.
ARE THE WURLEY BIRDS HEADING TO THE RACES IN HONGKERS?
“Bloody hell, Liz, hope we can make a quid with all this spinning”.
We hear that the Shane Warne and Liz Hurley Show is heading to Hongkers. As we all know, Liz Hurley’s “acting career” never really took off. What she had going for her were a pair of great knockers and absolutely no acting talent. And now it’s all starting to sag and droop what with ragged marriages dogging her, “illicit” affairs and babies with multi-billionaires, and she desperately needs a career boost.
“Why, yes, I married her for her massive, heaving boobs”.
Enter our old mate, Shane Warne. Horny Warney is an icon but even icons have their days off and, as of right now, Warnie, despite endorsing McDonald’s, has had his television talk show canceled and is looking at something new to keep himself busy- and in the limelight.
Enter Liz Hurley and everything now is all Hurdy Gurdy in Oz with the paps following the attention-seeking couple who we hear are shopping a- gawd no- reality show based on, well, their life as a Hurdy Gurdy couple with nothing going on.
We also hear that part of the show will be filmed in Hongkers and where the “Wurleys” go to the races and mingle with some of the Aussie jockeys riding here.
In case you don’t know, the “Wurleys” are mad punters.