Around 6am, we were listening to a podcast where our mates David Shortte and Wes Cameron from Perth’s Big Breakfast Show interviewed jockey Craig Williams- and how refreshing to hear the ways these two co-hosts go about their work compared to the oh-so-serious droning that goes on elsewhere.
As usual, it was a freewheeling interview with Craig Williams being an excellent guest- open, humourous, informative, professional, interesting and worldly.
Here was someone who can enjoy sushi, sashimi and dim sum along with bangers and mash and putting a prawnie on the barbie.
Time and again, Craig Williams mentioned how much his decision to ride in England had opened new opportunities for him, and how, his three years in Hong Kong riding against the best from around the world had forced him to change his riding style to be a force in the most competitive racing jurisdiction in the world where every racing day is an international race day.
Often, it’s something- and a huge USP in many areas, forgotten, or taken for granted, by many of us- even those at the HKJC who should know better and how to make this work in its overall marketing and branding exercises.
On the day of the running of the Audemars Piguet QE11 Cup, listening to Craig Williams speak so glowingly and eloquently about racing in Hong Kong, hit home.
After all, later today, apart from equine talent from South Africa and Japan competing against Hong Kong’s best gallopers over 2000m, what an incredible lineup of international riding talent were to be in action throughout the ten-race card.
It was like the best of DC and Marvel Comics, combined.
Think about it: Joao Moreira, Zac Purton, Douglas Whyte, Tommy Berry, Yuichi Fukunaga, Gerard Mosse, Anthony Delpech, Hugh Bowman, Karis Teetan- and watch out for this Mauritian rider- Olivier Delouze, Brett Prebble and work-in-progress local riders in Matthew Chadwick and an underrated Vincent CY Ho- all competing against each other on the same race track.
Apart from Delpech and Fukunaga, this United Nations of Racing compete with each other on every race day.
Here, the HKJC, who are easily the leaders in all aspects of racing- turnover, venues for different customer segments, new technology, off-course and online wagering opportunities- need to step back, look at the “content” they own on these big race days and not settle for going through the motions of doing something/anything- for the sake of doing something.
But what IS this “something” and what’s its relevance?
Or is just something from the usual box of chocolates nicely presented with a pretty new ribbon?
Sure, if the wheel ain’t broke why fix it? But if it’s that same old wheel making creaky noises and still being turned around and around to a captive market that’s dwindling and with no wheels in motion for the next generation of racing fans wanting to be given something that can get THEIR motors running, well, surely, someone needs to change gears and deliver?
If we were the Club, we’d look at so many “What If” scenarios to, at least change the tyre.
What if there were short- and independently produced- movies of these sponsored Cup days?
What if there were votes for Ride Of The Day, Jockey of the Meeting?
How can these obligatory presentation ceremonies be more than the tedious photo opportunities with a screeching female emcee they have been for decades and which mean nothing to the thousands not in the picture?
After the first four races today, the storyline read as follows: Two races won by a Mauritian (Karis Teetan), one by an Aussie (Tommy Berry) and the other by South African Douglas Whyte.
The races might have lacked Group level horse power, but the crowds couldn’t have cared less as the RACING was exciting- very exciting.
The excitement continued when struggling local rider Jacky Tong, basically, out-fought the usually tough Brett Prebble in a very tight finish whereas South African Anthony Delpech combined with German trainer to take out race 6 of the day in another very tight finish.
The stage was set for the major races for the day, and when race favorite Frederick Engels missed the kick, and Lucky Nine hit the front, the Group 2 Sprint Cup seemed in the bag.
That man- The Durban Wizard-Douglas Whyte- had other ideas, however, and brought the John Moore-trained Charles The Great down the outside with a barn-storming run to take out the race.
Time- Audemars Piguet time- had arrived for the running of the Group 1 Audemars Piguet with the favorite being Hong Kong’s Designs On Rome with Tommy Berry aboard- and the horse and jockey did not disappoint.
Despite all the talk about them, the Japanese and South African raiders disappointed.
Still, what a race, what competitive riding between Moreira and Fukunaga, who fought a strange battle, what a finish, what a great race call by Darren Flindell, and what a training effort by John Moore with Tommy Berry riding again with twin brother Nathan on his shoulder, and fighting off the magnificent challenge thrown down by stablemate Military Attack.
This was fairy tale stuff and sponsor Audemars Piguet is now part of Hong Kong racing history.
Race 9 saw another future Hong Kong champion in Key Witness given a beautifully arrogant ride to win eased down whereas Frenchmen Olivier Delouze and Gerard Mosse combined to quinella the last and almost a Merci beaucoup to Audemars Piguet for making this day possible- a truly International day of Group 1 racing.
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