Did you hear the one about the Chinese punter and Wangaratta?
It goes like this: The Chinese punter and two other Chinese mates hit Melbourne for the first time in their lives.
They are in gambling nirvana- nothing to do with the band- when they realize that apart from their Day For Nights at Crown Casino, it’s a Monday and there is so much racing going on- in Wangaratta, Tamworth, Kilmore and one other track- and which they can watch on telly.
Who cares if they’ve never heard of the tracks, riders, horses or trainers?
It’s all about betting.
With a betting account opened and money already deposited into Westpac, the main punter with his iPhone 5 in hand and his finger twitching nervously like a trigger on a gun, calls and the first wager goes on- AUD$20k on an early favorite at Wangaratta. The bet goes tits up.
After the prerequisite Chinese racing chorus of “diuuuuus”, the friends regroup and the dangerously addictive chase begins by betting AUS$30 on the next short priced favorite at the same track. It too flops. Yes, es tu, Brutus.
While “remedial work” goes on at Wangaratta after some horses go slipping and sliding all over the place, they play around with some “small” AUS$5k bets wherever Jamie Kah is riding thinking she is a Malaysian Chinese jockey.
They get around AUS$50k by backing the “Malaysian” jockey.
Then, with “the remedial work” at Wangaratta completed, they notice a 2 to 1 pop trained by an old Hong Kong favourite- trainer David Hayes.
“Waaah. Hay see!” goes the battle cry along with AUS$50k going on at the fixed odds of $2.20- and- bang- it comes in.
All this illustrates the amount of Chinese money flowing into Australia today- in the property business, the F&B business, wineries- watch a documentary called Red Obsession to understand Mainland China’s love affair with wines- and the racing business.
Apart from those punting on a track like Wangaratta as if it were Shatin, leading The Long March in Oz is Sun International, the Macau-based Chinese-owned casino conglomerate that has spent- and is spending- millions on horse racing in Oz, starting with its purchase of Eliza Park and recent $1.5m on highly rated Irish St Leger winner Voleuse De Coeurs from the Dermot Weld yard to target this year’s Melbourne Cup.
It’s a massive throw of the dice, considering the wily Weld thought the mare a year off her peak.
Who’s involved or been tapped to be involved with the rapid expansions plans of Sun?
Judging by their cocktail party two months ago, the real power brokers of racing who they need on their side.
Most leading trainers and jockeys- they’re just bit players in a Big Picture- we know in Oz see Sun rising like their own golden goose and one that each fawning suitor wishes to make their own. And Sun International has a helluva lot of money to spend as investments and for that very important thing to Chinese called “face”. And they have been one of the biggest spenders at the yearling sales this year in Australia, along with the China Horse Club and several other overseas “newbies” to Australian racing.
To Australian breeders, the sales companies like Magic Millions, Inglis, the big names in the training ranks and some of the more prominent names in the bloodstock agency business, it’s racing’s very own mining boom.
A Chinese businessman can drop $2m on a race and it’s no big deal. But lose “face” and it’s a black day at Hanging Rock.
This Red Obsession is what’s not understood or is underrated or simply too “hard basket” by so many in racing in Australia to understand.
To many of these largely “get rich quick” operators, it’s the irresistible sound of the cash tills clicking over big time.
It’s also where some of the biggest owners are Chinese- either above-board or under-the-table- Chinese from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vancouver and from within Oz.
Are these ownerships and various syndicates put together as money-making investments?
Some are, while that very important thing called “face” is the key driver.
“Real” money can be made through investments, playing the stock market and property- but not “face.”
Winning in racing to many Chinese is an expensive hobby full of “face” and also a return to those glory days when horse racing was something for “nobility” and allowed in Shanghai before the Communist takeover.
Today, owning horses and gaining more “face” by out-bidding others at Sales is simply to show they can- and is a game of anything you can do, I can do- bigger and better- because I have the Big Bucks and my dick is bigger than yours.
Where is all this leading?
Well, only the foolish would not think that Lady GaiGai is more than a few lengths ahead of the rest in “making nice” with someone like Desiree Cheng whose brother owns Sun whereas her “Living The Dream” strategy is pure business and where shares can be exchanged in lieu of money and long-term partnerships formed.
Living The Dream, with Bryan Martin? Mmm? Hasn’t he had a few shots at the stumps with his own syndication schemes with Lee Freedman and David Hayes?
As for the Corporates, it’s knowing the players, knowing how the Chinese punters play and offering no limits as the house always wins in the end.
And when they do, those houses could be snapped up by Chinese-owned businesses as part of their assets and with IPOs being the end game.
So, while it’s all well and good to tune into RSN and listen to hours of very boring breathless chat and interviews galore about Dead 5 tracks with Bossy and the other Oompah Loompahs, somewhere far far away, the power fairies are dancing in Never Never Land.
While dancing, they are also changing the landscape of racing that will leave many living in their little bubble and $2 flexi bets on their quaddies wondering what the hell happened.
What happened? They blinked.