A few seasons ago when Brett Prebble was leading the Hong Kong Jockey Premiership by fifteen winners and only something like eight race meetings left, it really looked like The Fat Lady had sung and the rule of Dougie Whyte had come to a screeching halt.
But the Whyte Man who thrives on pressure and the rubble and bubble of knockers, dug in and started to bang home doubles and trebles while Prebble seemingly choked and defeat was clutched from the jaws of victory. Or something like that, but what a year 2012 turned out to be for the jockey when he won the Melbourne Cup.
Today, we are seeing a far different battle where all the experience and guile of Dougie Whyte, Hong Kong’s Champion Jockey for twelve consecutive seasons and for so long The Man In The White Hat is being upstage by Zac Purton, the Kid- young, ambitious, tremendously talented and fearless.
It has all the makings of a movie- a Western where The Kid has been honing his skills for five years, watching, studying, being patient and has struck with a vengeance with the town Marshall is being called out for one last shootout. In the background, Ennio Morricone’s Theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is playing and with The Kid looking as lethal and unforgiving as Lee Van Cleef staring down on Clint Eastwood for More Than A Fistful Of Dollars. It’s for pride of ownership of the Hong Kong Jockey Premiership and, right now for racing fans, it’s the greatest show in town.
It’s a classic Sergio Leone spaghetti western being moved onto a racetrack. Two racetracks.
Could the number 13 in 2013 be an ominous number for the 41 year old popular town marshal who, today, might be wanting to enjoy his family life and hang up his guns?
Has The Kid rattled his confidence? Or does he still have a silver bullet left in his arsenal of weapons? Has he been cut down to size, or, like Tonto, will long-time pardner Johnny Size come riding in with some extra bullets?
Though the Chinese racing media are busy writing the town marshal’s obituary along with their own conspiracy theories as to why he is being so constantly gunned down by a hail of winners by The Kid and his Zac Attacks, they are not getting it. They are still playing the Walter Brennan role of the town’s ol’ codger in many early Westerns who ran around screaming, “Head for them hills! Those varmints are heading to town and they look mean, folks!”
The Chinese racing media does what it always does when it loses. They look for scapegoats. Don’t forget they’re punters, too, and all punters talk and write through their pockets and grow to be huge knockers.
On Tuesday at Shatin, the Kid and the marshal fought out two finishes. The kid was brutal at the finish especially when he pushed and pushed and brought Travel Brand to overpower the town marshal on Turbo Jewellery. It was a ruthless victory and the town folk gasped as The Kid looked back at his opponent and might have cackled… but kept his middle finger in check. It was another Lee Van Cleef aka Zac Van Purton Moment.
The town folk shuddered and wondered if their beloved marshal was slowing down? Smoke signals and tweets and chatter were asking these same questions.
We know of The Thrilla From Manila. Some were there when Muhammed Ali and Smokin’ Joe Frazier pounded each other.
This is The Ding Dong from Hong Kong. The HKJC should have Don King promote it. Or Simon Cowell. Create a special app and a new bet around it.
Find a sponsor with vision to take it further instead of someone like those daft buggers at CSL 1010 and their equally daft, ding dong 1010 Million Challenge which no one cares about.
Never look a marketing gift horse like this in the mouth. They seldom come with all the action and drama of this and which will go down to the wire.
Meanwhile, in a country far, far away called Oz, a racing legend was making a startling comeback.
This was when the eleven year old Good Ba Ba came out of retirement on Tuesday to run in The Standish at Flemington. In its first race in almost three years, the one-time Hong Kong Horse Of The Year, rattled home at long odds to just miss out on a third placing over 1200 metres, a distance way too short for the champion miler and just a prep race.
Now trained by another old timer in Rick Hore Lacy, the post-race antics of Macau-based trainer Gary Moore who had flown down especially to watch this run would have many thinking he had trained the horse. The eccentric and quite mad Moore who has been known to jump on horses and kiss winning jockeys on the mouth and dresses to the races more outrageously than Lady Gaga, was carrying on so much that those nearby to the son of the legendary George Moore, who didn’t know Mad Max Gary from a tub of lard kept their distance.
Rick Hore Lacy
Then again, perhaps, Moore The Merrier had reason to celebrate: He was given Good Ba Ba to train in Macau by John Yuen, the horse’s equally eccentric owner whose every move is guided by his fung shui master.
Alas, sanity prevailed and the Macau Jockey Club was made to realize that this pinup horse of Hong Kong deserved a noble retirement and not the embarrassment of racing against Macau’s hacks in what is the graveyard of horse racing made up of C grade everything and everyone, but trapped in Peyton Place and The Night Of The Living Dead.
When we thought all was well and that the champion Hong Kong Miler that was raced here far longer than it should have and was a pale shadow of its former self had been retired came the bizarre news that Good Ba Ba was off to Oz and where it would come out of retirement to race. Had Moore and John Yuen gone to see the fung shui master and was this his suggestion? And why is this horse being trained by Rick Hore Lacy, hardly the most Go To trainer in Oz? And why is Gary Moore still so involved in the horse? More fung shui?
Though many of us see Yuen’s decision to keep racing this amazing race horse as a prime example of part of Gordon Gekko’s Greed Is Good Factor and will keep racing Good Ba Ba until gawd knows when, is this a great movie plot or what? A Rocky-type of horse opera starring Jackie Chan as John Yuen, Ben Stiller, below, as Gary Moore and Michael Caine as Rick Hore Lacy.
Though one doubts it, let’s hope that like Rocky, this story has a happy and inspirational ending.