SACRE BLEU, HONG KONG TO HOST IFHA’S “WORLD’S BEST JOCKEY” PRESENTATION! BUT WHO KNEW ABOUT IT? AND WHEN?
Some of us only learnt last night that racing’s newest International Award – this one for the already up and running International Horse Racing Federation’s World’s Best Jockey-will be presented during Hong Kong’s International Race Day festival in December.
When this award was made known to the media, we have no idea, but, surely, it must have been months ago, and which must have somehow gone over our heads like airplanes.Yes? No?
Before looking at this as an idea with legs, but with some glaring mistakes in timing being played out very late in the innings, let’s stare into a half-full glass and try and see how this might offer up some chances for riders outside of Europe to win it this year- but with an eye towards making it work for sponsor Longines next year.
This newly created Award is based on performances in the 100 highest rated Group One and Grade 1 races as deemed by that verbosity known as the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Committee- and will run from December 1 until November 30 the following year, with points awarded on the basis of 12 for a win, 6 for second and four for third placings.
Casting a cursory glance at the current leader board, Irish jockey Joseph O’Brien (son of The Great Aidan Of The O’Brien) shares the lead with Christophe Soumillon on 72 points, Ryan Moore two points away and James Doyle in fourth place.
Back in the pack, Zac Purton, below, leads the Hong Kong and Australian contingent on 46 points ahead of Michael Rodd and Tommy Berry.
In fact, if he were to put in a whirlwind finish in the Group 1 races eligible between now and close of play- The Melbourne and Caulfield Cup races are not two of them- The Zac Attack is the only jockey capable of upsetting the European pomme frites.
With a little over two months left in the competition, it would be surprising- okay, a travesty- if Joseph O’Brien, the son of The Aiden Of The O’Brien, took out such a coveted title.
As a now retired champion jockey said, Riding the best horses doesn’t necessarily make someone the “best jockey”, and Average Joe O’Brien would need to ride far better than his most recent effort on champion colt Australia in Ireland to be worthy of this award.
Trust us when we say that if he were to be named “The World’s BEST Jockey”, there will either be a huge hue and cry from racing fans around the world and a storming of racing’s Le Bastille, or else, a casual shrug of the shoulders and a muttering of, “c’est la vie” and “merde”.
BUT- and it’s a big Kim Kardashian type of butt- with NEXT year’s Award in mind which should have been the logical starting point in getting this series off on the right foot, this presentation could act as a well-thought out and informative announcement where one doesn’t need to surf the net and click into the IFHA site to understand how all this works and the level playing International field in place to rack up points.
Of course, being named “the best” in anything just like the Oscars, the Grammys, The Tonys and People magazine’s World’s Sexiest Man is rife with subjectivity- and so it will with the WBJ, but, so be it.
More importantly, to stop this award from being fobbed off as a half-baked idea that’s been up and running for over nine months and, currently, with a 26 point advantage- or handicap- to Moore, Soumillon and Average Joe, there needs a great deal more work to be done.
There is a need for this Longines Best Jockey Series that results in The Best Jockey being named to be seen as more than an after-thought irrelevant to the International racing world- which it is not.
Forgetting the timing of everything- hard to do because it’s like closing the barnyard door after the horse has bolted- when finally gets around to the facts, figures, sponsorship opportunities and range of Group 1 races eligible for points, it’s not the Eurocentric idea many have thought it to be at first glance.
Fingers crossed that common sense prevails when next year’s WBJ award is announced in Hong Kong, and how it will dovetail neatly with the HKJC International Day and not look like Sidney Poitier’s character turning up in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”.
MCEVOY CALLS TIME WITH GODOLPHIN.
Well, it happened sooner than expected, and though the move has surprised some of his fellow jockeys, it comes as no surprise that Kerrin McEvoy will leave Godolphin in Australia to ride freelance.
The jockey puts down his decision to leave to “timing”. Maybe he’d had enough of all the barking? Maybe the decision was made after yesterday’s trials? Perhaps it had to do with an Earthquake with zero force?
Though one of the favourite racing sons of Sheikh Mohammed who rode for the “ruler” of the Darley/Godolphin stables for twelve years, it was widely speculated that the talented and affable McEvoy would not suit the working style of John O’Shea, who took over training duties for the “Blue Team” from Peter and Paul Snowden in May.
While the Snowdens have quickly made their mark by branching out on their own, Godolphin, under a gruff taskmaster like O’Shea, has yet to really hit its straps and create any Group 1 successes of earth-shattering- and earthquake-proportions- the only type of successes Sheikh Mo cares about.
In fact, it would be fair to say that the Godolphin stable under O’Shea has been struggling. And though many are tipping James McDonald- one of the trainer’s favourites- to replace McEvoy, we won’t be taking any short odds on that happening.
In fact, with some of the new rides he’ll be getting, especially from Team Hawkes, he’d be barking mad to put all his eggs into Humpty Dumpty’s basket.
From a Hong Kong racing perspective, don’t be surprised to see McEvoy, who won the HK International Jockey Challenge two years ago, and is the brother-in-law of Brett Prebble, out here riding during the winter months in Oz.
HO LEE FOOK, BATMAN, IT’S NASH FOR CASH!
He’s not exactly the most talkative person in the world, and one very much doubts he’ll win a talk-off against Dougie Whyte, Zac Purton or Joao Moreira- or Neil Callan, who has been doing a sterling job assessing the races and bringing Paddyworld to the Aussie Trackside team- but Nash Rawiller is one helluva good, strong rider who leaves his talking for the racetrack.
While serving out a suspension copped in Japan for careless riding, and set to make his Hong Kong debut on October 8, “The Gnasher” has been riding trackwork, coming to grips with the wants and needs of Hong Kong trainers while wondering if he can see China from the Blue Bar of the Four Seasons.
Picky about what he eats- he’s a seafood man, but not just any seafood- “The Gnasher” has been spotted staring into menus at a number of restaurants around town including the uniquely named Ho Lee Fook, the new faux Chinese fusion restaurant in Soho.
With the chef being Jowett Yu, who ran Sydney’s well-known eatery Mr Wong’s before moving to Hong Kong this year, we watched in awe as “The Gnasher” recently buried his face into a plate of scallops and a garoupa dish.
He had his mouth full to tell us what he thought of the food, though we’re certain it wouldn’t have been anything more than a few monosyllabic grunts.
HOW ABOUT A RIDE OF THE DAY AWARD?
There was some excellent racing at Shatin on Sunday led by the very competitive riding between Zac Purton on Precision King and Joao Moreira on favourite Teofilo Calva.
It’s all fair in love and war and the same can be said about racing with Purton standing his ground and not giving an inch leaving Moreira to conjure up some of his magic to extricate himself from this vise-like pocket and win the Class 2 Shantou Handicap on the very sparingly raced five-year-old galloper.
The other highlight was watching Douglas Whyte take the Richard Gibson-trained Full Talent- purchased, we hear, for the connections in Hong Kong at a bargain basement price by legendary jockey Brent Thomson- from barrier 12 and soon had the top weight beautifully balanced and placed to win a hard fought battle against a determined Brett Prebble on outsider Regency King.
Thomson called it a “15 out of 10 ride”- many agree- whereas the renewed Prebble versus Whyte rivalry was like old times and good to watch.
These rides should be applauded and, perhaps, even singled out by the HKJC for a special monthly award.
It also adds to the confidence of talented young local guns like Keith Yeung and Vincent Ho, who are usually in the firing line for “errors and terrors in judgement” during a race whereas racing fans voting for Ride Of The Day, or Ride Of The Month via the Club’s website can only add to inter-activity with racing fans and take the Jockey Challenge to its next logical level.
THE FAST TRACKER GOES TO OCCUPY SHATIN ALONE AND FIND TONTO.
As predicted, it paid to follow Brett Prebble on the weekend- a very confident Brett Prebble who rode a fine double, and came within a short head of a Prebble Treble if Regency King saluted in the last.
As also predicted, Keith Yeung won on Terrific Master at 6s- this horse is going places- whereas trainer Almond Lee gave all credit for the change of fortunes to his winner Best Jade Triumph to Brett Prebble. The jockey had suggested the addition of blinkers to the horse- and which did the trick.
Tonight, a night where we see many horses backing up after racing last Wednesday and opening day, we see Neil Callan back in action after sitting out a suspension, and it will be good to have the pugnacious Irishman spicing things up.
He might not be the greatest jockey in the world, but the Irishman is tough, competitive and, away from the track, a very knowledgeable horseman who added much whenever he was a guest of the HKJC’s Trackside team.
Callan has a good book of seven rides on his first day-for-night back while Christian Reith, who seems to be finding it tough to get that first winner on the board, has three rides with a very much in-form Brett Prebble having five rides.
As usual- and it’s now an all-too-familiar scenario- Joao Moreira has another strong book of rides tonight. And unless Moses keeps closing the Red Seas around him, he will win his fourth successive Jockey Challenge.
More interesting will be to see what happens when Muchos Moreira’s six month riding licence in Hong Kong comes to an end.
As mentioned before, the Magic Man has a number of tricks up his sleeve, and being granted an extremely generous six month contract gives the brilliant-and extremely popular Brazilian-something akin to an Amex Platinum Card while holding four aces.
How he’ll play this hand will be interesting, to say the least- and, on a different subject, also if, as tipped, he’ll get the call-up to ride Gris Caro, if connections of the recent winner of the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes, decide to run the French import in the Caulfield Cup.
A 1000m straight course race on the turf which often turn out to be lottery and can cause whiplash watching horses appear from all over the place.
With horses drawn outside always having an advantage, I’ll go for Island Spring (2), Glorie Horsie (1), California Rock(4) and Cosmo One for just a fun bet while chilling at the Haymarket at Grandstand 2 of Shatin Racecourse- a great new venue and open to the public.
It’s not often that Caspar Fownes uses Moreira and this looks to be a benefit race for Cruise Control with The Only Kid- this used to only be worth backing when ridden by Mosse- for the quinella.
Rumba King is getting on in years, but loves the all-weather track, and with a rejuvenated Brett Prebble up, cannot be left out.
Frankly, many can’t be left out in the first leg of the Six Up where there’s a bonus to be won.
Every man and their dog will have Grand Plus (5) as their banker with John Size backing it up from last week where it came second for Joao Moreira as a hot favourite.
As for the legs since Grand Plus really should, at least, run a place, it’s pretty open with the one definite leg for me- and perhaps even danger to Grand Plus- being Hearts Keeper (2) with Howard Cheng aboard.
Dougie Whyte produced a masterful ride last Wednesday to get Confucius Elite (6) out from barrier eleven and onto the rails to win, and with just a five pound increase in the weights, there’s no reason why the Sean Woods galloper can’t make lightning strike twice.
The interesting runners for me are Easy Success (5) and Real Fit with Neil Callan replacing the Mr Bean of Hong Kong racing- Alvin Ng- on the Tony Cruz-trained runner. The galloper had a harmless pipe-opener over 1000m on opening day, and having trialled well on the AWT surface, it’s one to keep safe along with Horse Supremo (9), which has drawn barrier one and has the pedigree to do well on this surface for young Mauritian rider Karis Teetan.
A very tough final leg and where many will be backing the leading riders as opposed to trying to find form amongst an average group of Class 4 horses.
With Joao Moreira replacing Dougie Whyte on another Sean Woods runner that ran and disappointed last week- Imperial Concorde- this is certain to start favourite though I’ll look for value in Dragon Glory (6) which returns to trainer Michael Chang after a few runs for the Almond Lee yard, Win Along (8) and Karis Teetan’s ride- Safari Magic (12)- lurking at the bottom of the weights.
This looks like a race where, again, The Axis Of Egoiste- Purton, Whyte and Moreira- should dominate proceedings with Ka Ying Kid (1), So Caffe (6) and Reborn To Win (11).
If there was to be a bovver boy to crash this party, it could be bovver boy Neil Callan on Casper Fownes’ Mighty K (7) though I see this as more of a place chance.
The Size-Moreira combination is sure to have Brave Brother (4) start favourite though this bro has not shown much balls every time I’ve backed him.
I would rather bank on Gentilis with Howard Cheng up onto 1,4,5,8,10,11 as my Quartet bet.
Gentilis is not a cross between Gentiles and genitals, ok.
SARIKA CHOY’S SIX UP