WE TIPPED THIS WOULD HAPPEN IN HORSE RACING-AND IT HAS: LEGO HORSES IN BRITAIN’S CHAMPIONS DAY PROMO.
In the promotion and marketing of any sport, it’s all about thinking out of the square, building new partnerships, and giving a new spin on something old. Like, for example, horse racing.
So when we wrote over a month ago about the incredible comeback in the popularity of LEGO where it’s found a new Cool Factor even with hardcore gamers, and how the timing was Now for horse racing to crawl into bed with the iconic Danish brand- crawling into bed with Danes, in general, is an addictive pastime for some of us- we didn’t think this marriage would happen so quickly. But it has and all credit to Graham Love of Glove Productions for thinking of and approving this wonderfully creative promo for British Champions Day that features everyone from a LEGO Claire Baldwin to a LEGO Frankel.
No, it’s not kids stuff. It’s Cool Stuff. And horse racing must be seen to be a Cool sport with Cool characters if it’s to expand its customer base.
The problem here is whether many in charge of leading the sport to where it’s never gone before actually know what’s a good idea, let alone knowing cool from uncool.
THE SILLY, PAROCHIAL AND UNNECESSARY TWEET OF THE WEEK.
THE ONWARD CHRISTIAN REITH CONUNDRUM.
Watching him struggle for rides and struggle even more to get a winner on board is not good for Hong Kong racing, nor is it good for Christian Reith, a good jockey when riding in Sydney with an incredibly positive back story of a person who changed his life around after taking the same wrong turn many young riders have done.
When Reith received a six month license to ride in Hong Kong, it surprised many in Australia- and here. It was the same thing with Tye Angland, but look how the young rider made those sceptics eat their words.
And so, with Christian Reith being one of the first to arrive in town to ride trackwork and make himself available to trainers, we all hoped for the best.
Sadly, the best hasn’t happened. Christian Reith has found it very tough going with a smattering of very average rides – not enough for any sustainability in Hong Kong’s very international and competitive racing scene.
If one is to look to Oz without becoming Sydney-centric when issuing riding licenses, taking Berry, Bowman and McDonald off the list, and big race rider Michael Rodd, who will taken up a stint in Singapore, there are very good riders like Blake Shinn, Josh Parr, Damien Browne, Dom Tourneur, Kerrin McEvoy, below, on absolute fire as he proved at Caulfield yesterday, and talented young guns like Damien Lane, Regan Bayliss, Jason Collett and Sam Clipperton, all deserving an opportunity to prove themselves by riding against world class jockeys with very different riding styles- Whyte, Moreira, Purton, Mosse, Callan, Teetan, Delouze, Prebble, Chadwick etc on two vastly different tracks.
One really has to wonder just how much longer Christian Reith will hang around trying to make things work in Hongkers when he’s losing out on full books of rides with winning chances in Sydney.
WHY THE JOCKEY CHALLENGE SHOULD BE MORE CHALLENGING.
It’s always a question about checks and balances, and, sometimes, it’s about having too much of a good thing. But on Wednesday night at Shatin, the first Joao Moreira-less race meeting this season, brought the Jockey Challenge alive.
It became more than the one-act affair it’s become this season by being dominated by The Harry Potter Of Racing with his full book of primed-to-win rides. On Wednesday, the wins and wealth were spread around.
With over HK$1 billion in turnover on what was, let’s face it, an average eight race card with most of the races being on the dirt, it showed that (A) Occupy Central, road blocks, barricades, and The Lost Boys of Democracy Leadership apart, even without the star appeal of Joao Moreira, Hong Kong racing fans cannot be deprived of their favourite sport and (B) Hong Kong has a conga line of world class jockeys as seen by the number of extremely tight finishes that night.
Yes, attendance was down by over 44%, but, lest we forget, racing is still only taking place in Shatin- even mid-week meetings- with Happy Valley, the iconic and popular city track with its Happy Wednesday nights, set to reopen on the 22nd of this month.
The Moreira-less meeting was certainly not lacking in magic, and to avoid them becoming one-act affairs, it might make sense for there to, perhaps, be a Jockey Challenge quinella or tierce or even a Jockey-Trainer quinella.
Other than being an entertaining new bet, having all the main attractions of the sport involved introduces the sport to a bigger, wider market- especially the Happy Wednesday market segment that is new to racing, and follow their favourite jockeys to cries of “Zac! Zac! etc”, and not the horses. They win with this bet and “creative extensions” of it, which has them coming back again for more- something other racing clubs are incapable of achieving: Repeat visits after The Seekers has sung, “The Carnival Is Over”.
On Wednesday, le grande swordsman Gerard Mosse won the Jockey Challenge on his first meeting back for this season where he started out as a 40 to 1 chance, and rode like the brilliant jockey the Frenchman can be when in le mood.
Meanwhile, there was Douglas Whyte. Though no longer having instance access to those well-tuned John Size gallopers- these have gone to Moreira- each of the eight winners he has ridden this season has shown a brilliance that some had probably forgotten about.
None of these wins were armchair rides. They came despite bad barrier draws- what he did recently to win on topweight Full Talent from barrier twelve was truly magical- average horses, tight, competitive riding, perseverance and extremely strong finishes- without resorting to the whip- as was seen in him getting Confucius Elite home on Wednesday.
Whyte probably won’t win the Jockey Premiership, especially, if Joao Moreira stays the distance, but Douglas Whyte is certainly not prepared to just roll over, either.
He might not be besieged by offers to ride in the Group races in Australia- neither for that matter has been Zac Purton by his own countrymen- but, let’s just be thankful Hong Kong has first dibs on a very special horseman who is more than a jockey. And by that we don’t mean whatever wine he has produced by trampling grapes in his vineyard in Tuscany.
HO HO HO!
When we first met Vincent Ho, we were well prepped about him by Caspar Fownes; The kid was the popular trainer’s new apprentice, and, like a proud father, he talked about how Ho listened, rode well and had his head screwed on right.
That was two years ago, and this season, Vincent Ho is mixing it with the big boys and holding his own. In a recent meeting, he was seen at his best in a great piece of aggressively competitive riding against no less than Dougie Whyte, which had Brett Davis from the HKJC’s Trackside blurt out, and quite rightly say that it was Ho going, “Hey, I have six winners on the board, and I’m not going to sit here and wait for you to make up your mind!”
On Wednesday night, Vincent Ho book-ended the meeting with a strong ride on Mighty Gains to pip out Zac Purton, but it was his ride on Domineer for Fownes that caught the attention of many- calm, cool, and so confident one thought it was The Zac Attack riding the horse.
His time spent working, watching, listening and riding in France for six weeks during the off-season has improved him, and Vincent Ho is still the likeable kid he’s always been- but now, more confident, and which means taking calculated risks and having to change riding instructions mid-stream.
It will be interesting to see the competition and rivalry developing between him and another young local talent in Matthew Chadwick- the type of stuff followed closely by local punters and tipped to be part of many WeChat debates.
HOLY THUNDERBOLTS, BATMAN, THE MAGIC MAN IS ALSO THOR???
He might be The Magic Man in English to racing fans, whereas back home in Brazil, he was “The Ghost” for suddenly appearing in a race out of nowhere, but to Hong Kong racing fans, Joao Moreira is known as “Thor”.
This has to do with the fact that the second character of his Chinese name, stands for “thunder”. This has led to the incredibly popular Superstar jockey being nicknamed “Thor, the God of Thunder” by the local racing media and fans.
In fact, the massively popular Apple Daily newspaper has even created a cartoon version of “Thor, The Magical God Of Brazilian Thunder.”
THE FAST TRACKER FEELS FABULOUS ABOUT TODAY’S SHATIN MEETING!
A Class 5 event serves as an appetiser to provide racing fans with enough time to get to Shatin by planes, trains and automobiles without stepping on all those protesting for democracy, or dim sum- it’s become confusing- so, I’ll be sitting this one out and watching Nash Rawiller, who with Neil Callan, is the only jockey to have a full book of rides, win on Mobile King, his first ride for Caspar Fownes.
Good grief, trainer Francis Lui has three entries for this race with Peter Ho having two runners of his own in this eleven horse field over 1200m for lowly Class 5 gallopers rated 40-15. Lui’s runners are at the top of this lap sap heap with the rides going to Douglas Whyte, Howard Cheng and Zac Purton. I don’t like any of them on a winning line.
A 1000m dash where, again, those drawn the outside will have a distinct advantage. With this in mind, Douglas Whyte on Mellifluent (4) has a big chance though at very short odds. Bung in two that might add value to tierces- the lightly weighted Glory Horsie (14) and Xi Ying Men (13).
Paul O’Sullivan and Zac Purton are always around the money when they team up, and here, Star Trak (7) should take this out despite the 1200m looking a bit short for the fragile galloper.
If he’s already ridden a winner or two, “Nash For Cash” Rawiller has a good chance to add to his tally here on the John Moore-trained Grand Harbour.
It looks as if The Gnasher has won the ride away from Karis Teetan who has done well with the galloper except for dropping his whip when it came a good second at its last start. The horse to beat, however, is Canny Callan’s ride- Top Act (8) with Win It (12) being a good outsider.
A tough final leg of the Triple Trio, and with odds in mind and as I’ve been waiting for it this season, keep Canny Franco very safe which runs for the recent successful team of Olivier Delouze and Michael Chang. Hit The Bid with the Canny Callan aboard cannot be left out and could be used as a double banker.
Another 1000m dash and there’s no reason why last start winner Disciples Twelve (4), drawn barrier 7 for the team of Caspar Fownes and Vincent Ho shouldn’t repeat the dose and have the heavens open for its backers.
A competitive looking race where What You Dream(3) and Forgive and Forget (6) will be in the money whereas others like the dangerously weighted Kirov (11) could fly under the radar and win at odds without surprising.
So Caffe (8) was a huge disappointed when flopping as a red hot favourite at its last start and I am starting to wonder if many of Sean Woods’ runners leave their best work on the training track. Even with Whyte sticking with it, I will be looking elsewhere, most notably towards Hidden Value which won so impressively at its last start.
An extremely good race to end the card and, with the original choice for the ride- Joao Moreira-sitting out a suspension, what immediately caught my eye was Zac Purton on the Tony Millard first starter Divine Calling (6) which used to race under that name for Gai Waterhouse.
Other than this somewhat surprising booking considering the history between trainer and jockey, Divine Calling can be a quirky horse to train, but there are many in Sydney who’ll be all over this one as it seems set for a first up win.
This is the second Quartet race of the day, and I’ll be taking Divine Calling as the win banker with the legs being 2,3,4,5,10,12.
BEST BET: RACE 10: DIVINE CALLING (6)
NEXT BEST: RACE 4: STAR TRAK(7)
VALUE BET: RACE 6: CANNY FRANCO (1)
JUST HORSING AROUND
SARIKA CHOY’S SIX UP
Total:$640 for a full ticket.