THE ZAC ATTACK TURNS ON THE MAGIC: WINS THE CAULFIELD CUP FOR JAPAN!
The Zac Attack juggernaut continued yesterday when- no, not Gai Waterhouse, not Chris Waller, not Aiden O’Brien, not John Moore, not Darren Weir- but the Tomouki Omada-trained Admire Rakti, again underlying the quality of the horses from Japan, defied carrying topweight to beat off all Australian challengers and ran away with the Group 1 Caulfield Cup- a truly International win that says much about the “spread” of the players involved in the sport today.
The Hong Kong-based Champion Jockey gave the horse a calm, cool and collected ride and confidently taking it out wide from where it produced a withering run that said, Sayonara, mates.
Next step for the Japanese galloper: The Melbourne Cup, a race which should suit it to every inch of the Flemington track.
Next for The Zac Attack: The chance to ride a very rare treble in the same year- has it ever been done?- by winning the Cox Plate on the Singaporean-owned connections’ Sacred Falls next week, and then the big one on the first Tuesday in November when he gets aboard Admire Rakti again at Flemington for an encore.
And if anyone riding anywhere in the world today can achieve this unique treble, it’s Zac Purton. He has his own kinda magic that goes BOOMCHAKALAKA! Gotta Admire that.
THE CULT OF MOREIRA
Someone half-jokingly said that if the Hong Kong Government wanted to end this current impasse and Mexican standoff with the student leaders who have hijacked Occupy Central and now find themselves in complete leaderless disarray, they should send in Joao Moreira.
Known in his home in Brazil as “The Ghost” for spookily appearing out of nowhere during a race- and winning it- and then dubbed “The Magic Man” in Singapore for his complete dominance of racing there, in Hong Kong, the brilliant Brazilian is known as “Thor, The Racing God Of Thunder”, which is a back translation of his Chinese name.
As far as Hong Kong’s powerful Chinese racing media is concerned along with the thousands of local racing fans, Joao Moreira can walk on water, turn water into wine, and “do a Moses”.
He is all five members of One Direction rolled into one and, not to take anything away from the great riding skills of Zac Purton and Douglas Whyte, there is them and there is Moreira.
As one editor of a Chinese racing weekly put it, “When Moreira isn’t riding, it’s not real racing, because it’s just a break to give the other jockeys a chance to win.”
The Cult Of Moreira is a phenomenon. There is no other word for it and not even Frankie Dettori in his hey day came close to this type of across-the-board Rock star adulation.
Only the magnificent thirteen year reign of Douglas Whyte as Hong Kong’s Champion Jockey and the South African great’s communicative skills- seen at their best at the Thoroughbred Luncheon in Melbourne yesterday- can take on Moreira Fire Power.
Though a legend when riding in Singapore, there is a huge chasm between there and Hong Kong when it comes to proving oneself on what is truly the world stage of racing.
And when, out of nowhere and little fanfare, Moreira arrived in Hong Kong a few months after the last racing season had started, yes, there were great expectations from the rider who was coming off the high of riding all the winners in an eight race card in Singapore. But Singapore is Swingabore and no one was expecting, well, magic- certainly not those who expected Moreira to find the going tough against this city’s United Nations Of Racing.
Suddenly, however, the Red Seas parted, John Size abruptly ended his long-time relationship with Douglas Whyte, and fell under the spell of Moreira. So did nearly every other trainer as owners demanded his services. And owners pay the rent and purchase the horses.
With a very quick foothold in Hong Kong racing- an overnight sensation would be putting it mildly- The Cult Of Moreira has taken wings and flown to other parts of the world. He’s like The Scarlet Pimpernel: They seek him here, they seek him there, and he knows he holds all the aces and decides where he wants to be.
His recent cameo at Randwick where he rode a treble including his first Group 1 winner in Australia- He’s Your Man for trainer Chris Waller in the Epsom Handicap- made his stock rise as Hong Kong’s “Thor, The Racing God Of Thunder”, became The Magical Thunder Down Under.
My, how the country’s racing media fawned over him with none of the rivers of rivalry that reared their ugly heads with, first, the Brett Prebble versus Douglas Whyte war of words, and then the same old story between Whyte and Zac Purton.
But when it came to Joao Moreira, there has been none of that. Why? Everybody Loves Raymond, and everybody loves Joao. Even competing jockeys. Why? Simply put, he’s extremely likeable.
The charismatic Joao Moreira is not only a brilliant rider, he is an extremely astute politician and businessman who knows how to market himself by making very wise career choices.
Through his successes in Singapore, his winning cameo appearances in Dubai and Australia, through his dominance and popularity in Hong Kong, Joao Moreira has built for himself an impressive CV, one that has come a very long way from those days when he rode for Nathan Tinkler and made fleeting visits to Australia to ride a few horses for Patinack Farm.
He was just another good jockey at that time, and it was his move to Hong Kong that set off this conga line of International successes- and offers.
Some label Moreira “The Smiling Assassin”, a deft negotiator who knows his worth and value and uses this to get the most for himself. Nothing wrong with that. It’s nothing personal, it’s business. And with great power comes great responsibility along with racing’s answer to Spider-Man.
Asking for and being given a six month riding license in Hong Kong for this season shows his bargaining skills.
After all, he was voted Most Popular Jockey and, if not for his spate of suspensions, he would have easily ridden off with the Jockey Premiership and beaten Douglas Whyte’s record for the most number of wins in a season.
Why not milk this for all it’s worth while he can?
While some think that Joao Moreira will leave Hong Kong for greener pastures when his six months are up, one has to ask where these greener pastures might be other than riding in Hong Kong with all the perks, recognition, convenience and lifestyle that goes with it?
Right now, Joao Moreira can pick and choose his career options.
Not bothering to fly out for Caulfield Cup Day when his Cup ride was scratched might be seen as a “spoiler alert” and a case of the tail wagging the dog. But, it’s also a businessman jockey standing his ground, not desperate to ride anywhere unless it fed that voracious appetite of his to win- and showing that he plays by his own rules and is no one’s running dog.
Joao Moreira has the racing world at his feet. And by the nuts. He is a vital game changer in the global paradigm shift taking place in racing.
THE AMAZING PAPER SCULPTURES OF ANNA WILI-HIGHFIELD
The Sydney-based artist and some of her work created from archival cotton paper that is painted and then sewn together.
Discover more by visiting http://www.annawilihighfield.com
CASPAR FOWNES, LIKE JAMES BROWN, FEELS GOOD! UGH!
If Caspar Fownes is “The King of Happy Valley,” then, long live “The Clown Prince of Shatin” as racing moves to the extremely popular local trainer’s happy hunting grounds as the city track reopens for business today.
When Gun Pit- a $250k purchase he personally picked at the Breeze Ups in New Zealand a couple of years ago- unloaded that withering run in the last race of the Wednesday night meeting and brought up a treble for Cas, it gave him the dues that, in certain quarters, has not been there- not like all the column inches given to John Moore, John Size, Tony Millard and even that other local boy named Tony Cruz.
With fourteen winners on the leader board now- eight more than his nearest rival- Caspar Fownes is no longer “Lawrie’s kid” who was “lucky” to get his trainer’s license and “lucky” to win the Trainers Premiership last season whether by countback, fallback, feedback or Nickelback.
He won it fair and square and without many big spending owners and any star imports. Same this year. And when one sees the improvement he has made with Gun Pit and, hell, the improvement and confidence his “support system” has given Vincent Ho, who is riding as well as any senior jockey with already eleven wins to his credit, what Hong Kong racing has is a great local Feel Good story.
It’s a what’s needed at a time when this city in such leaderless disarray needs as many Feel Good Moments as it can get, plus a solid HKJC brand ambassador, and with Vincent Ho, a new Hong Kong racing marketing USP that has REALLY come of age this early of this season.
THE BEAUTY OF HORSE POWER
THE BANDE BUNGLE IN THE CAULFIELD CUP JUNGLE FROM THE TWITTERVERSE
TWEET OF THE WEEK
THE FAST TRACKER AND BRINGING HAPPY BACK TO HK AT HAPPY VALLEY
With the past few weeks of “civil disobedience”, an “Occupy Central” campaign gone horribly wrong for its organisers when hijacked by well-meaning, but naive student leaders, alleged police brutality and a Chief Executive under siege from many sides, today’s race meeting- the first of the season in the city’s new, improved Happy Valley track- takes on far more importance.
In many ways, this race meeting is a symbol of a city held prisoner for weeks with a rabid foreign media intent on drumming up naive idealism amongst equally naive young protesters knowing full well the might of Beijing, starting to return to some semblance of normal daily life.
Yes, today, there will be winners at Happy Valley, but the biggest winner will be all those ordinary citizens innocently caught up in all this political crossfire, having their businesses stalled or crippled, and now picking up the pieces and getting on with life- the peaceful life that’s made Hong Kong famous and not a city that was starting to resemble the backdrop to “Blade Runner” with Mad Max watching from the sidelines.
Let’s just hope that Kharu (3) doesn’t win this race as the sight of owner and notorious photo-bomber Natalis Chan leading in the horse with his new skunk-streaked hair will be tough to take.
Longwah Amber (1) and Jetso Delight(6) ridden by Dougie Whyte and Zac Purton, respectively, standout though there’s always a “spoiler alert” when Joao Moreira is around, and his ride for Derek Cruz- Yat Ding Win might go ring-ding-ding and take this out.
Terrific Master was a big flop at its last start after looking like a horse with plenty of upside when winning its first start for the season.
Perhaps that win looked flattering though Tony Cruz has a high opinion of this galloper and this time, replaces Keith Yeung with his bon ami Gerald Mosse who is sure to bring out the best in it as long as Terrific Master is actually any good and that the great French swordsman doesn’t suffer from brain freeze and goes looking for the nearest McDonald’s.
After suffering from some wide barrier draws, the Cruz-trained Lucky Day (1) has drawn better this time with Moreira retaining the ride. Cruz and Caspar Fownes are the only trainers who use the services of The Magic Man sparingly, and when they do, he delivers.
Being the first leg of the Triple Trio, take Lucky Day as your banker. It might not win but is sure to finish in the top three.
The HKJC Racing Club’s Young Talent is far better suited to racing in Happy Valley than Shatin, and though the connections have raced some very ordinary horses for the past few seasons and this one isn’t exactly a super horse either, it could show significant improvement after two lead-up runs.
There are some weak conveyances here and it’s really down to picking the best of a bad bunch.
Two horses stand out here- Braveness (1) which Moreira rides for Caspar Fownes whereas Zac Purton rides Precision King for Benno Yung, both horses taking a class drop in one of those supposed “Class 3” races for horses rated between 85-60. The only thing that could stop one of these from winning is that this is a 1000m race where barrier draws come into play and could throw up a few unpleasant surprises.
Still, despite its abysmal record at Happy Valley, Purton can give Precision King one of his cool, calm and collected rides. Fatherhood seems to have mellowed the Zac Attack who is riding superbly and making winning look almost too easy.
If looking for two roughies, I would not look past Charity Joy (7)- if drawn better, I would have made this my banker- and You Read My Mind (9) with Derek Leung aboard. Leung has been going through a very lean spell and looks as if he could wake up soon with a long-priced winner so always study his book of rides. He’s a far better rider than his current record shows.
Matthew Chadwick might be having a slow start to the season, but gave a brilliant ride to win on Clever Beaver (8)- and who doesn’t like a clever beaver?-at its last start.
The switch to Happy Valley might even improve it, and looks the one to beat with True Brother (4) being the danger and which just might give the hard working Karis Teetan a welcome winner. The kid works too hard to go winless for so long and deserves a change of luck.
A tough, even race with Número Uno(2), Regency King (3) and Starting Over catching the eye and Tony Cruz sending out the front-running Chancellor (7) again. Jeez, it seems as if it runs every week whereas Cruzy looks to be putting the pedal to the metal today with a big number of entries- and many with good chances.
The first four in the weights are for me with those capable of upsets being Jolly Victor (10) and Willie Invictus (11), both lurking down below.
Again, Tony Cruz has three runners entered here with his Peniaphobia (1) being interesting as it takes a class drop, which is off-set by drawing barrier eleven in this 1200m race and struggling apprentice Alvin Ng taking over the steering. Still, it can’t be ignored though the two to beat look like being Tour De Force (2) and Exciting Dream (3).
RACING EXPERT SARIKA CHOY GOES FOR A BIG SIX UP!
Total:$900 for a full Six Up ticket
THE SIMULTANEOUS BROADCASTS: HARDLY STIMULATING VIEWING.
Apart from Admire Rakti paying only 4s in Hong Kong- a third of its starting price in Australia- the simultaneous broadcast of Caulfield Cup Day was, er, awkward viewing- if fortunate enough to know where this was shown.
Though a strangely orangey looking Amigo Clint and Amigo Paul did their best with what they had to work with such as undergoing pregnant pauses waiting for the audio from Oz to arrive- and when this audio DID arrive, it was tired sounding piffle from faceless voices with interviewees speaking out of sync. Awkward!
Also awkward were some REALLY slo- ssssalllloooooo motion shots for no real reason.
Two girls carrying out the Caulfield Cup in uber slo-motion? A jockey mounting his horse in uber slo-motion? Awkward! And looked just weird.
And though it was a nice touch to have ex-jockey Sammy Hyland, below, back on a horse interviewing winning jockeys after their races, they were so out of breath after giving their all a few minutes earlier, it almost seemed as if they were saying, “Sammy, f*** off, mate!” Awkward!
Only Hughie Bowman and Zac Purton when interviewed after their wins sounded as if they hadn’t even broken into a sweat and were almost chilaxed with their answers. Sammy was panting more than both of them! Sooooo much panting! Soooo awkward!
As for watching the simultaneous broadcast of British Champion Day, it was heavier going than the heavy Ascot track.
Other than watching an appallingly indecisive ride by Richard Hughes on Night Of Thunder, the only Wake Up Moment was hearing Amigo Jerry- and he knows his British and European racing- say, “I am not an Arab” and Captain Orange replying that neither was he.
Awkward, yes, though not as awkward as seeing tweets from some in the Aussie racing media referring to the connections of Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti as “japs”. AWKWARD!!!
As for the Chinese feed of this broadcast from Ascot, well, the Cantonese heard was awkward, wayward gibberish with the hosts totally in the dark about British and European racing.
On a more serious note, whereas EVERY other sport has improved the ways their broadcasts are packaged and presented, and with many around the world watching horse racing online, in sports bars, at home- wherever- someone has to take the lead and look at ways of bringing all the on-track excitement online and wherever racing fans gather.
There is an urgent need to create and produce a broadcast product that’s of far more edutainment value, and not the same old inane prattling to that rapidly dwindling hardcore market with a few minutes of racing thrown in to prevent rigormortis setting in.
The buildup is not there and neither is there any post-race excitement. It’s like bad sex: Just get it over with.
It’s all very boring, it’s not inviting to those wishing to join the party, but stuck outside, and it’s a right turn-off to even many dyed-in-the-wool racing fans who bother to stay at home on a weekend expecting to watch something entertaining, but end up nodding off.
ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, HAPPY WEDNESDAY RETURNS!
It’s been quite a surreal weeks in Hong Kong where what is known as Occupy Central became a mosh pit of protesters, student leaders, triads, police, truck drivers, regular pat soundbites from the same old tired government officials and an impasse that might be coming to an end though the Fat Lady has yet to show her face.
Still, despite road blocks, disruptive re-routing, and some goofy moments in the name of democracy, all of which has come perilously close to ruining many small businesses, race meetings in Shatin have gone on as if held in some parallel universe a million light years away from Occupy Everything.
It’s as if there’s some unwritten law: Do whatever needs to be done for universal suffrage, but screw with a race meeting and feel the wrath of hundreds of thousands of local racing fans. No one is going to mess with those stress-free four hours away from the harsh realities of life.
On Wednesday night, it’s lights, cameras and action as the Happy Valley racecourse reopens with the relaunch of those Happy Wednesday nights along with the HKJC Oktoberfest promotion- horse racing that’s up close and personal, people meeting people, ‘live’ music wonderfully beautiful girls and women cheering on Joao, Zac, Dougie, Ollie, Karis, Monsieur Mosse, Canny Callan and the rest of the United Nations of racing plus giant sausages- and not the one belonging to the legendary French swordsman- beer, frauleins, and Bavarian ooompah pah music.
It’s the most fun one can have in Hong Kong with one’s clothes on and here’s hoping that the Hong Kong Tourism Board wakes up to the fact that an HKJC Happy Wednesday is now a tourist attraction and gets behind it.
Also, for those who haven’t soaked up the atmosphere of one of these nights, here’s hoping they get to see what it’s like via a different broadcast that showcases all the races, but also captures the OTHER show taking place at Adrenaline, the Gallery and, of course, the Beer Garden where another United Nations will be holding court: A United Nations of racing fans in their favourite Field Of Dreams.
I do not think Moreira endeared himself to the owners of the other three horses he agreed to ride when he decided not to come because his Cup mount was scratched.