HE MIGHT BE “THE WORLD’S BEST JOCKEY”? REALLY???
For an organisation that’s known as the International Federation of Horse Racing (IFHA), it remains a somewhat low key group that many might say is the Rodney Dangerfield of horse racing.
In other words, instead of being seen as a leader capable of bringing the disparate worlds of horse racing together, the IFHA is perceived by many to be an insular Eurocentric entity whose modus operandi remains vague at the very best.
And so, when, last week, it closed the barnyard door after the horse had bolted, and announced that an award series that’s actually been going on since last December to determine “The World’s Best Jockey” would be named in December during the annual gala dinner before Hong Kong’s International Day- leading this race with Christophe Soumillon is Joseph O’Brien- some tried to comprehend the mechanics of the competition while others questioned the cartoon-like timing of everything.
Meanwhile, many well-known jockeys shrugged their shoulders to show their disinterest in what they dismissed as a half-cocked idea where points are given to riders competing in 100 pre-selected Group 1 races around the world based on ratings.
These one hundred Group 1 races will determine “The World’s Best Jockey”- those jockeys fortunate enough to be riding the world’s highest ranked horses when anyone who knows something about racing will point out that the best jockeys don’t necessarily ride the world’s best horses.
Surely, the best jockeys are often those who get the most out of horses that are NOT the best in the world through timing, strength, being quick of mind etc?
As Trini Lopez might have once sung, IFHA had a hammer, they would return to Le Bastille with sponsor Longines in tow and come up with something like a series of global challenge races like Hong Kong’s International Jockeys Challenge- something with some meat that’s more than a photo opportunity, and does nothing to advance the sport by being an idea with more holes in it than a piece of cottage cheese.
VIVA! VIVA! HONG KONG’S AXIS OF EGOISTE BECOME AN ONLINE GAME?
No, we have no idea how this game works, but it looks promising in a hardcore way and available only in Chinese.
KATHY O’HARA: ROLE MODEL.
Some might say that role models in horse racing is an oxymoron, but when they do come along, those running racing clubs, other administrators of the sport, and those sponsors who can see beyond the obvious or the pedantic, grab these opportunities with both hands and make things work.
This leads us to Sydney-based jockey Kathy O’Hara.
Okay, she is far from being le grande dame of racing though not as young as some of the new brigade of female Australian gun jockeys. But from what we know, Kathy O’Hara is a role model for many young girls with a love for horses and those who ride them- a tough jockey on track, pretty, approachable and a pinup jockey off the track.
At a time when only those blinkered and winkered and, unfortunately, still involved in the sport cannot or refuse to see the global paradigm shift taking place, horse racing needs to be perceived as a far more lifestyle-oriented sport with some glamour attached to it. And NSW racing, under the gun for a myriad of reasons to do with its mismanagement of nearly everything, our vote is for Kathy O’Hara to be something akin to Sydney’s Racing Ambassador- feature her in Public Service Announcements, personal appearances, sponsorship deals, and help bring the sport from being an on-course form of entertainment online and off-course.
HAVING A SLASH AT HAPPY WEDNESDAY?
All going well, when February rolls around, don’t be surprised if one sees Slash onstage at the Beer Garden as part of the guitar god’s promo tour of the region.
Again, all going well, it could also be good news for new hard rock bands who write and perform their own material.
Slash performing alongside a fledgling Rock band at the Beer Garden on one of the Music Icons At The Valley Happy Wednesday nights? An Appetite For Destruction That’s Welcome In The Jungle?
It could very well happen. Stay tuned.
HORSES FOR COURSES AND DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS.
As in any business, ensuring it makes a profit is- duh- obvious, and so when HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges talks about turnover, don’t think that here’s a person staring at the totalisator with only numbers going through his mind.
If not for “E.B” and his persistence, insistence and understanding of the need to expand the HKJC customer base, there would be no Beer Garden, no Happy Wednesdays- once named Sassy Wednesdays for reasons unknown to us and with nothing “sassy” about them- no ‘live’ music that today is sparingly and intelligently used between races without being a loud intrusion, and a wide variety of venues in Happy Valley and Shatin to cater to as diverse a group of customers as possible- customers with equally diverse tastes in everything.
One size doesn’t fit all and which will, hopefully, also translate in the different ways horse racing is presented via online and terrestrial television programming where hosts don’t stand around with their arms folded and looking as if they’re about to dance like Cossacks to “Rasputin” by Boney M.
A LOW-KEY FAST TRACKER ON A SUBDUED NATIONAL DAY MEETING AT SHATIN.
When Vincent Ho smirked at trainer Manfred KL Man after they combined to win with Unique Joyous which went out at 58 to 1, it summed up an impossible day for punters who follow trackwork, form, ratings etc.
Whenever racing is on the C course- and add a few races on the all-weather track and a couple of 1000m races down the straight Shatin course- you’re basically throwing caution to the wind and money with it. Still, despite all this and it being a Saturday afternoon meeting, punters poured in over $1.1 billion as they went in search of The Holy Grail on a day when even Joao Moreira had to wait until the last race to ride a winner and get a measly twelve points on the board.
With Dougie Whyte finding it equally tough despite what looked like a good full book of rides, only Zac Purton saved The Axis Of Egoiste with a great ride to “beat the odds” and win on Sky Man despite being drawn barrier two over one of the two 1000m races.
Riders amongst the winners were Vincent Ho, who rode another double, Eddie Lai, Derek Leung, crikey, even Alvin Ng, Neil Callan, and Andreas Suborics whereas a red hot Caspar Fownes trained a treble.
Today, with the long shadow of the Occupy Everywhere protests starting to fade and with sanity from all sides looking like being restored, racing on National Day goes ahead this afternoon at Shatin.
Apart from the priority of ensuring that today be a peaceful and enjoyable afternoon of racing and a reprieve from the past few dark days of naive politics and idiotic actions from protestors and the police alike and a city under siege demanding greater democracy and the resignation of Chief Executive CY Leung, hopefully, there will be results based on form and that all the homework many who live and breathe the sport spend trying to beat the house.
Interesting to see is who will benefit when Moreira, Prebble and Callan take the three day suspensions hanging over their heads – especially the rides of The Magic Man.
Reading trainer Ricky Yiu lament to the SCMP that the popular and in-demand Brazilian jockey would probably not ride his horse Amber Sky when it races over 1200, you’d think that Hong Kong only had one rider capable of riding winners.
Will Christian Reith be given some of Moreira’s hand-me-downs- horses with real winning chances, or could they be snapped up by Nash Rawiller who starts his Hong Kong stint on October 8?
The way things are not going for him, one doubts Christian Reith will hang about here much longer riding for the likes of Gary Ng when he could be in demand for rides in black type races back in Sydney.
Looking at today’s card, apart from the small fields- the result of too many race meetings held too close to each other and no Happy Valley racing, what’s puzzling are the light number of rides Douglas Whyte has, plus what looks- and looks can be deceiving- as if he has been replaced on some rides with strong winning chances.
Perhaps there’s nothing sinister to any of this and just par for the course for a subdued National Day meeting taking place in a subdued Hong Kong that has seen better days- but which might have turned the corner. Let’s hope so.
SARIKA’S SIX UP
Hope the tear gas doesn’t drift up to the private boxes and disturb you and Regina this afternoon.