Creativity and horse racing very rarely go hand in hand, or come together. For some reason, they travel along different paths. It’s a pity as the racing of horses features the most beautiful and magnificent animals in the world along with those wonderful men and women on these flying machines, plus all the colour and excitement of a sport that in 2015 is still trying to find its feet- and audience.
Who’s to blame for this impasse?Probably both parties: The racing club that refuses to see the forest for the trees, who, with blinkered thinking, loses sight of the consumer and what might attract them. On the other side of the fence, not many in the creative field believe that anything about the sport can be remotely creative. So, what’s left are “suppliers” who are, largely, order takers. They either do as their told or try to second guess whoever is at the end of the pecking order of the approval process and which all-too-often results in mundane work that attracts no one and is the equivalent of elevator music.
Once in a while come breakthroughs like the work below. But this work is a rarity for the simple reason that few are willing to look at the sport beyond the obvious, and have the preconceived notion that horse racing is one dimensional by being only about gambling- and gambling does not require creativity.
Yes, gambling does not need creativity- unless the “creativity” of systems to try and win against the house- but horse racing does.
Recently, the work of photographer Cille Mhearnaig whose incredible passion for capturing the beauty of horses and the drama and poetry of the sport has been discovered and tweeted and retweeted on twitter.
The sad thing is that horse racing is perceived by many to be wearing flares, platform shoes and Afros and stuck in the Eighties. In 2015, it’s not a good look. In fact, it’s bloody disturbing.
The question is, has horse racing pushed itself enough to evolve and change with the consumer- change to embrace much of what the consumer is embracing and bring this change to the sport?
Is this why the broadcasts of horse racing still follow a three decade old format with only aerial views and the obligatory slo-mo shots thrown in recently to show the excitement of winning? Is this why racing programmes continue to be a three-ring circus of wobble heads?
Is this why “racing radio” is a non-stop onslaught of chatter with horse racing flung into a mega mix of the trots and greyhound racing? What next? Action ‘live’ from the casinos of the world?
As Mr Bon Jovi once screamed, “You give loving a bad name”, but too much emphasis on in-your-face gambling gives horse racing a bad name. It can devalue and cheapen the sport into being seen as a mug’s game by those who are still to set foot on a racetrack, but are its biggest critics.
In Hong Kong, we might still have a ways to go with our racing, but look at the quality and diversity and importance given to enhancing the customer experience.
Look at the creativity in bringing in International jockeys with vastly different riding styles that add so much more theatre to the sport.
There’s the original content being produced using new technology such as the convenience of GoPro.
There’s the work of artist Simon Ma that’s used as part of the HKJC’s 130th Anniversary Campaign.
Of course, there is still much to do. One of these must be to create an “alternative parallel universe” where racing fans- fans of racing for very different reasons- the mature and the new- can enjoy the sport however they want and wherever and whenever they want it.
But one thing should be common to all: Inter-activity- Inter-activity between racing fans and their favourite riders- and far more inter-activity between new racing fans.
The purists are happy where they are and that’s fine. It’s those who are new to the sport- that social media generation- who require this online and on-course inter-activity so they can create their own rules. Through their non-passive involvement, they will shake things up and bring a new excitement to a sport that’s being cut-off at the knees through in-fighting, vindictiveness, personal agendas, unoriginal sponsors, insular thinking, “marketing” by gremlins without a creative product to market.
Meanwhile, talent like Cille Mhearnaig, who have so much to offer the sport, are ignored as what’s needed is “just someone to cover the races” as this is how it’s always been. Past tense.
FROM THE RACING TWITTERVERSE
THE INSIDE TRACK
WATCH DICK RUN! WATCH DICKIE RIDE??? EVERYBODY SING “LUI LUI, ME GOTTA GO, YAH YAH YAH YAH”.
One has come to expected the unexpected from apprentice Dickie Lui, but surely no one expected him to take off on Número Uno last Sunday like a scalded cat in heat?
Some might say that Lui had been inspired by the innovative tactics employed by some of the European riders and was out there doing his own thing. If this was him doing his own thing, well then, Dickie Lui had suffered serious Homer Simpson-type brain freeze.
Yes, Número Uno races on the pace, but the horse has never been ridden as if it were Speedy Gonzales on jumping beans. It was, basically, run into the ground over 1400 metres and a sitting duck for back markers.
The bizarre tactics employed has, not surprisingly, led to an adjourned enquiry after Stewards, took evidence from the champion (?) apprentice, Benno Yung, the trainer of Numero Uno and trainer Ricky Yiu to whom Lui is indentured.
The race itself was won easily by the heavily-backed Paul O’Sullivan-trained and Zac Purton-ridden Racing Hero- 16s into 6s- for the well-known posse in the CAAF Syndicate with Baab Al Nasr rattling home from the clouds and paying over 60 to 1 for second.
After that Herculean effort, Lui became indisposed- he was suffering from a sore right shoulder after pulverising his ride into submission-and forfeited the rest of his rides. Let’s be grateful for small mercies.
What might come out of this adjourned enquiry? We’re tipping a long holiday for Dickie Lui and then a tough comeback trail with trainers showing him the crucifix whenever they see him approaching.
THE EGO LANDS…ON HIS HEAD.
Those who bother to tune into “The Ego Hour” to listen to the measured and urbane Shane Anderson and Rambling Ralph Horowitz tackle various racing topics would know that “Les Horreurs” is quick out of the barriers- and then runs off helter skelter into Ralphieland.
With the Global Galloper taking a break from the TVN saga and race caller Adam Olanski deputising, “Les Horreurs” cut loose about, gawd knows what. He was off at such a fast clip, who knew?
But what we didn’t miss was Rambling Ralphie trying to remember the name of the CEO of the HKJC- Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges- and shrugging it off as “Wilfried Britches, or something like that”. “Wilfried Britches- or something like that?” It took serial gibbering to a new level. Quelle horreurs, indeed.
RAT-A-TAT-TAN AND TAN TAT SUN FOR HONG KONG.
The Peter Moody-trained Tan Tat Sun which was to run at Moonee Valley last Saturday is heading for Hong Kong. Certain to have gone off the favourite, Tan Tat Sun is owned by the well-known Tung family who raced many horses in Macau and Tan Tat Baby in Hong Kong which was trained by John Size.
How good is this new Tan Tat? The 3-year-old chestnut gelding has had two career wins with the most significant of these being a $30,000 race at Kyenton. But it’s the owner Tung Moon-fai is who interests us the most- and his future plans to make a bigger mark on Hong Kong racing than he and the rest of the posse have done in the past.
WIN ONE OF THESE LIMITED EDITION AUTOGRAPHED HK INTERNATIONAL JOCKEY CHALLENGE POSTERS!
Tell us who is your favourite jockey on Twitter (@FastTrackHK) in, well,140 words or less, and the FIVE judged by us to be the best reasons (no sycophantic bum crawling though, puhleeeeze) will each be mailed one of these posters signed by Ryan Moore, Joao Moreira, Yuichi Fukunaga, Zac Purton, Christophe Soumillon, S’Manga Khumalo, Pat Smullen, Richard Hughes, Vincent CY Ho, Kerrin McEvoy, Ryan Moore and Irad Ortiz.
Offer ends on January 31,2015.
NOTE: Neil Callan is ineligible to participate. He can’t write.
THE BEAUTY OF HORSEPOWER BY KARL GUSTAFFSON