Someone asked us recently why the coverage of horse racing “cannot look like the movie ‘Seabiscuit.'”
“Well, my little chitlin,”, we yawned, “Seabiscuit is a movie with actors, actresses and sets and lighting and Directors of Photography, great editors etc and based on a brilliant true story…”
And then we thought, Wait: Horse racing has more twists, turns, politics, Machiavellian and dumbass characters, plots and sub-plots than any movie.
Think of a movie about the ups and downs- and ins and outs- and life of Kieren Fallon- and what another great comeback he has made. The man must have ice in his veins and the thickest skin in the world.
And there MUST be a movie about Frankie Dettori- but this cannot include any scenes in his crappy Italian restaurant in Dubai- and keep following the brilliant newcomer in the 2-year-old filly named Desert Gazelle which pissed in for for him and Godolphin at Newmarket yesterday.
“Shuddapa your face! WHAT crappy Italian restaurant? I giva you a meataballa sandwich”.
Hell, imagine a movie about Sheik Mohammed and his incredible passion for the sport. Then there are the stories of Michael Kinane, Damien Oliver, even, er, Patrick Biancone, Gary Stevens, Willie Shoemaker, the great Steve Cauthen. The list is endless.
Why hasn’t any of this happened? ‘cos no one has thought about filming any of it. They’re leaving it for someone else to do- and which WE might as well do as we have more than one script on a number of subjects.
We loathe hearing from whiners about Facebook and how, “I/we could have done that.” Yes, but you didn’t, you twats. You would have created Assbook. Maybe.
The International world of horse racing is a fascinating subject and a story waiting to be told by really great film-makers like Spielberg- for families- and Martin Scorsese for those wanting something more gritty, real and starring someone like Leonardo DiCaprio. It will out-depart “The Departed.”
The real story and stories of horse racing happens in the background and away from lights,camera, action and spooky bastard children of Nora Desmond saying, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille.”
Coming to the last race meeting of the Hong Kong season today [Sunday], Tony Cruz was leading the Trainer’s Championship by a slim two winners.
Apart from Let’s Goal, his runners for the last day seemed almost non-existent compared to the army which rival trainer John Moore was launching to overtake Cruz Control.
Many a friendly bet were taken over lunches and dinners as to who would win though we thought it would end up as a “tie”. But if a “tie”, Moore would win it based on having more horses placed second.
And then there was the “spoiler” for Moore: Fellow trainer John Size, who had runners with huge winning chances in every race in which the Moore Attack was to be launched.
Meanwhile, riding these Size runners was Douglas Whyte, who, despite having sewn up his eleventh CONSECUTIVE Jockeys Championship, needed four more winners for him to rack up a hundred winners for the season.
“Fwuck, I chewed down so hward twying to look tough, I thwink I wost a twooth.”
These were the major “stars” in this horse opera, but the co-stars were just as interesting- owners who desperately needed a win on the last day of the season for “face” and good “fung shui.”
After 32 years in the Hong Kong horse racing industry, trainer Alex Wong Yu-on, one of the first trainers to support a then-unknown Douglas Whyte, was retiring. And would he leave with a winner?
There was also jockey Weichong Marwing who was riding in Hong Kong for the last time before returning to South Africa and spending more time with his family.
Would he bow out with a winner- and would this be on Let’s Goal for Tony Cruz and bow out- even if for a while- with a win on the favourite in the last of the season? And those last races of the season have often thrown up many surprises.
“Let’s Goal, baby! What does that even MEAN?”
So, on a sweltering, summer afternoon at Shatin, one of the greatest race tracks in the world and “housing” the most passionate and “win-conscious” punters anywhere on this planet, the stage was set and with “no spoiler alerts” until the end of the last race of the day.
The first winner of the day, Ferrabosco, backed from 17s to 8s led all the way for Ty Angland, certainly one of the very few jockeys who has adapted so quickly- and well to racing in Hong Kong.
Apart from Gary Stevens, Christophe Soumillon and Maxime Guyon has a jockey who arrived with an “okay” reputation been able to fit in so easily- and well- and will only improve next season.
There were awards after every race and with Ambitious Dragon- not surprisingly- winning most of them whereas, appropriately, both Viva Pataca and Good Ba Ba tied for The Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sadly, we had to suffer through a long rambling speech by John Yuen, the fung-shui-obsessed owner of the latter champion horse. He shut the fuck up when he was drowned out by a chorus of “Diiiiiiiuuuuuus, get the mic off the dullard” led by…Good Ba Ba.
Brian Stevenson and Mr Sad La La
After five races, we were wondering if the script for the day had undergone a severe re-write: John Moore had not trained a winner, Douglas Whyte had not even placed on a ride and Tony Cruz’s Let’s Goal had let the team down by finishing flat and down the field.
The highlight- up to then- was Derek Leung winning race 4 and giving trainer Paul O’Sullivan the mandatory 13 winners trainer he needed to rack up for the season.
This was great to see for O’Sullivan, one of the good guys in racing, and what an improved and accomplished young rider Derek Leung has become- and who came out and ride the winner of the next race.
We’ve always thought this kid was being over-shadowed by the hype built around Matthew Chadwick, but not any more: He is riding very well and with great confidence and is most definitely capable of taking on and mixing it with the big boys.
And then came another twist: Douglas Whyte on the odds on favourite in race 6- the John Size-trained Delish ran more like Perish Hilton with a Whopper in her gob and the Vincent Ho-ridden Sea Prince for- woah- John Moore- leads all the way and wins somewhat unexpectedly.
Delish Hilton shows off.
There was a hush amongst the crowd along with a few “Diiiiiiuuuuu’s” while local punters scratched their nuts and wondered what the hell was happening.
What happened was that in the next race, Vincent Ho came second, this time on one of Tony Cruz’s runners, but it wasn’t good enough to stop the eventual winner- Victory Master -ridden by Darren Beadman for John Moore and which meant that the Trainers Championship had been leveled up- and with Moore in front by having more second placings.
At the end of the day, even though the Trackside team jumped the gun and proclaimed John Moore the champion trainer while there were still two more races to go, they didn’t have to wipe any egg off their faces.
John Moore won the Trainers title in great style- his first in sixteen years with a quartet of winners- and what a feat it was, something which might even mean him getting rid of those ghastly safari suits and shopping at somewhere not too expensive like Armani Exchange.
Alex Wong Yu-on did not bow out with a winner, but Hong Kong racing fans saw a brilliant new equine hero in Longwah Supreme and Weichong Marwing said Goodbye to Hong Kong with a win on another good new horse for David Ferraris in Sweet Orange.
There was some brilliant riding from Darren Beadman and while Douglas Whyte did not get that brace of one hundred winners, he was voted Hong Kong’s Most Popular Jockey. You cannot win ’em all.
Sure, there will be the obligatory end-of-season post-mortems by the experts and what could have been done better or scrapped altogether etc- and which we have done.
But, know what? Only a handful will give a damn and get their knickers in a knot discussing this and that with more than a hint of jealousy- especially from those in other racing jurisdictions who really should be looking at their own backyards and watering them with a sprinkling of imagination and creativity.
Horse racing in Hong Kong really is “where Champions meet” and all those hundreds of thousands of punters who pound the tote with millions each racing day- the last racing day was another bumper record- could not give a damn about the past even if it was a few hours ago.
All they’ll be doing for the next couple of months is twiddling their thumbs and waiting for September 5 and the 2011-2012 season to roll on so they can bitch, moan, go, “Diuuuuuu”, but also watch the battle for riding honours between Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble.
“I love you”. “No, I love you MORE.”
They’ll be there to see the return of Ambitious Dragon and whether it will be carrying Douglas Whyte or Maxime Guyon.
They will be there to see new boys- trainer Richard Gibson and jockey Tim Clark and see what unravels on International Day in December and if Black Caviar makes it from Down Under along with Rocket Man.
They will continue to follow Caspar Fownes in Happy Valley- and Shatin, and those who didn’t know give a rat’s arse about horse racing and are also the future of the sport will be back hitting the Beer Garden every Wednesday as it has become such a respite from hanging out with Lou Zerr at all those samey-same “soul-ass” clubs down Wyndham Street.
They will all be back for more, they will be back to know how the hell to place a bet and “learn” how to win and understand more about horse racing AND everything else the sport- at least in Hong Kong- is now bringing to the table- a fucking great BUFFET of activities.
Finally, will Racingb*tch be back, too and will it keep going in its current guise?
Honestly, we are not sure.
We have had offers from investors, some wanting to buy us out, others wanting to become partners and even an offer to have a version of Racingb*tch in Chinese. How could they POSSIBLY translate what we write?
Perhaps, like this Hong Kong racing season, we, too, need a break and return in some new form and with a business model and relevant product that makes sense to us- and which gives us a horn.
The point is that we would rather be part of the solution and side with racing fans than be seen as being part of any problem and losing the plot by fighting other people’s battles for them. What the fuck for and what’s IN it for US?
Do this and you end up holding the bag along with an ice-pack against a black eye.
No, we have other plans involving the NEXT generation of race-goers and working with those who wish to connect with them in NEW ways as the HKJC has done with their Happy Wednesday events at the Beer Garden- and, we hear- with more initiatives to come such as the club/lounge/venue that is Adrenaline.
Without wishing to sound as if we have our heads buried up their arses- and which could get messy- take a bow the HKJC and Winfried “I am nearly fine” Engelbrecht-Bresges, Bill “Where’s J-Lo?” Nader, Richard “Hey, is he a Rising Star” Cheung, Brian Stevenson and, yes, EVEN Kim “Elliot Ness” Kelly. Hey, his is a dirty Untouchable job, but someone’s gotta do it and no one can be right- or wrong- all the time.
Bottom line is that despite everything else, Hong Kong racing is in a class or Group race of its own and which is why it attracts the players that it does.
Nothing and nowhere comes close to competing with the turnover or all the truly top International jockeys riding in the city- French, Aussies, South Africans, Chinese, and a few Brits.
Same with all the International trainers- all of which makes racing in Hong Kong as cosmopolitan as the city itself- and which should be supported by the largely inept Hong Kong government that rarely “gets” much PLUS all those brands who claim to be “part of Hong Kong”.
Well, dim sums, if “part of Hong Kong ” and not part of Hong Kong racing and the other initiatives being taken up by the HKJC like, for example, the charities front, you’re not part of anything. Your communications are phony and simply hot air.
“Yo, bitch, we’ll drink to that!”
With initiatives like the Racing Club- sure, this still needs work- and its Happy Wednesday events at the one-of-a-kind Happy Valley race course, the HKJC has at least addressed communicating with the current group of YOUNG non-racegoers in relevant ways.
This has been done- and there is still a ways to go- and not in some loony, moronic manner as the club’s former CEO Lawrence “Lawwy” Wong- WHO hired this guy????- tried to do and who once told us he wanted to turn then-Champion jockey Basil Marcus and Short Arse into “a sporting idol like Michael Jordan”.
No, we would rather work at creating a vibrant new racing industry and leave others to take pot-shots at the boring usual suspects whose time has come and gone and who don’t realize that they are completely irrelevant.
“Are you bitches really fucking off?”