December 4 at Happy Valley sees a truly International Happy Wednesday happening, thanks to the Longines International Jockey Challenge where, like every year, some of the best jockeys from around the world represent their countries in four designated races- but, no, not wearing national costumes.
This year, new names in this Challenge include Americans racing legends Gary Stevens and Mike Smith, so if from the US, grab a Big Mac and Yahoo and Google the boys home.
If from Hong Kong, grab a fried chicken wing and wave it at the Hong Kong team led by Douglas Whyte and including Zac Purton and Keith Yeung.
If last year’s winner Joao Moreira were participating and representing his former home base- Singapore- you could have cheered him on with a satay stick while singing La La Means I Love You.
Well, you get the idea, Einstein.
Based on a points system, the winner is named after the results of the four races and everyone celebrates by dancing a combination of the Filipino bamboo dance, the Samba and Gangnam Style to the manly sounds of Macho Man by Village People.
Nah, just joking, but they receive an award, pose for some photos while fireworks go off. And, yeah, it’s like the Olympics- but smaller.
But, dear readers, how can there be fireworks for YOU?
What will make it a banging night at the Ponderosa for you?
Well, here are some suggestions?
* Dress in a sari, kimono, cheongsam- or a thong- and whatever else and “go International.” And that’s just for the guys.
* Ogle at Francesca Cumani, the most gorgeous woman in horse racing and host of CNN’s Winning Post who will be running around interviewing people.
Franny is one of the very few women we know who has mastered the art of wearing flats at the races and still looking absolutely fabulous.
* Print some fake name cards saying you are a talent scout for the United Nations and hand them out to every good looking woman you see.
Or, just have a name card printed saying that you’re Kofi Annan, former head of the UN, and who was pretty useless.
Thought: Starbucks should really have the now-retired Kofi Annan endorse their brand and introduce the Coffee Amen- and make it only available on Sundays.
* Go into business by setting up an International Buffet business in the Beer Garden. Hire all the jockeys without rides that night to be your little helpers.
* Dress up as Willy Wonka with those same jockeys without rides as your personal Oompah Loompahs and hand out chocolates to all nubile nymphets in return for lucky phone numbers.
* Jump up onstage and launch into an accapella version of Randy Newman’s Short People and Disney’s It’s A Small World After All.
* Takeover from whoever is calling the races that night and call each race in a different accent: “Goodness gracious, my brinjal, but it is getting bloody hotter than a Madras curry in Calcutta tonight.”
On a different note, this International Jockeys Challenge is the appetizer before the main course is served up at Shatin on December 8- Longines International Races and where and when the racing world comes together.
This term- “racing world”- is pretty archaic and even elitist as this “racing world” is a world in transition and attracting the next generation of fans of the sport- something seen at every Happy Wednesday race meeting.
In a city that once labeled itself, “Asia’s World City”, well, the cosmopolitan and International world that comprises Hong Kong has transformed racing into a spectator sport that should not be pigeon-holed by those who are so close to the “old ways” that they are incapable of seeing the forest for the trees.
Here’s hoping that this year’s International Week is branded and marketed in ways where this new generation of race-goers are not excluded and who are made to understand and appreciate what makes this wonderful week of racing so special- and which will live on in their minds long after the annual dance is over.