It’s quite unbelievable to think that Joao Moreira and Zac Purton have ridden eighteen of the last 29 winners at the past three race meetings.
The Magic Man rode a record equalling Six Up at Shatin the Sunday before and added another quintet of winners on the weekend whereas the Zac Attack, never one to play second fiddle to anyone, rode two winners at the meeting last Sunday, bagged a Quartet at Happy Valley on Wednesday and got one home this Sunday.
What does the Moreira Phenomenon that is even being talked about by non-believers of the sport tell you along with the record breaking turnover at now every racing meeting- HK$1.2 billion was wagered at the mid-day Happy Wednesday meeting despite a rather tepid card- plus the emergence from Hong Kong of global equine stars like Designs On Rome and Able Friend whereas waiting in the wings are Aerovelocity, Peniaphobia, Luger, Redkirk Warrior, Beauty Only, Contentment, Giant Treasure, and others whose talent remain untapped?
It’s an enviable position for the HKJC to be in where they’re in a league of their own with the nagging question for this racing club that’s much more than being a racing club being, What’s Next?
With a rampaging and dominant Moreira, even the considerable talents of thirteen-time Champion Jockey Douglas Whyte, and his exploits in the saddle, are being pushed further and further into the past.
For those who talk about the one-time dominance of Whyte, to put it into proper perspective, Hong Kong and Hong Kong racing thirteen years ago was in a different place.
Where technology, social media and on-line communication tools in 2015 are essential mediums in communicating and opening new frontiers of racing has happened, it makes the beginning of the new millennium seem like the trip back in time- and which it was. It would be unfair to compare the magnificent and trail blazing achievements of the “Durban Demon” with the “Magic Man”.
To put things further into perspective, the odds of another thirteen consecutive premierships being claimed by one jockey will be as likely as Black Caviar’s unbeaten record of 25 consecutive wins being equalled or broken.
What Moreira has achieved in a different space in time and has accomplished so quickly- and without a need for any learning curve- hitting the ground running, continues to gather speed. He will create his very own records which will deliver him a special place in racing history.
Is there anyone around to break the Moreira monopoly and the Moreira-Purton duopoly that has, for example, had an affect in what was once a good marketing tool for the rookie racing fan and a fun bet that is The Jockey Challenge?
Sure, there might be those rare days when a Whyte, Derek Leung or Neil Callan or Brett Prebble might go against all odds and win one, but it’s now obvious that the Jockey Challenge must evolve to, perhaps, include “quinellas” with other jockeys or bring trainers into the mix. But, all this is easier said than done. It’s something for the wise people at Longitude to figure out and which could renew interest in the IBU tables at Adrenaline and its hybrid products.
As for breaking the duopoly that currently exists in the riding ranks, this can only happen next season and if- and it’s a very big If- Christophe Soumillon, who knows Hong Kong racing inside out, and will always have the support of owners and trainers, can be persuaded to ride here for a full season. And if not? Well, there might be cameos by Maxime Guyon, Hughie Bowman and even Ryan Moore, but thinking they will stay in Hong Kong for the long run is wishful thinking.
From a business point of view, it’s all about wagering, and no one individual controls turnover- nor where it comes. It’s better for Hong Kong and its people than this revenue ending up in the casinos of Macau that, these days, keep getting hit harder and faster with a huge downward spiral in returns.
There is also a need for the multi-dimensional HKJC to continue to be seen as the active charitable organisation that it is, and which it’s currently doing with events and donations from the ongoing 130th Anniversary celebrations.
Though not on the radars of racing fans, the calendar of 130 events are reaching those who wouldn’t know Whyte from black and Purton from Dickie Burton.
As for the racing product, especially in Joao Moreira, the Club has a brilliant brand ambassador, and how he, along with Zac Purton and Douglas Whyte, can become part of a global marketing strategy for Hong Kong racing will be interesting to see.
It’s all part of pushing the creative envelope as seen in the opening and evolvement of venues like Adrenaline and Hay Market and the Happy Wednesday brand.
However, what should not and must not happen is making a U-turn and settling for second best, or going to same old well to find new hires who can deliver and make a difference. That well is dry.
For example, the replacement for race caller Darren Flindell cannot, as the rumour mill is churning out, be some unknown practicing calling trials. That’s just daft thinking.
Yes, Flindell and David Raphael came to Hong Kong as unknowns and learnt their craft “on the job”, but that happened in a different era.
Hong Kong racing has, in so very many areas, improved by lengths. Use Flindell’s adios to actually IMPROVE the English product- Racing To Win, the ‘live’ broadcasts by the Trackside team and the English content and “navigation” on the official HKJC website.
All these areas have seemingly been allowed to plod along as if no one is watching or reading. Or cares. And that is the clear and present danger.
Australian, European and American racing has witnessed the rapid decline in interest in racing with complacency by racing administrators being the common denominator.
Hong Kong racing under “EB’s” stewardship will not let that happen.
Yes, the Chinese product is far more important, but, apart from the “commingling world”, there is an entirely new generation of overseas educated Chinese racing fans who don’t even act local.
They think AND act global and is the aspirational-driven consumer group every brand- is trying to reach. And the HKJC has this market which should make it a magnet for sponsors- new sponsors.
This Sunday, meanwhile, the world’s other best jockeys- Christophe Soumillon, Ryan Moore, Damien Oliver, Hughie Bowman- arrive for BMW Hong Kong Derby Day with the big Cup race being one of the most interesting in a very long time.
It will be brilliant day of racing with a United Nations of Group 1 riders. How will Joao Moreira fare against the world’s best? And Zac Purton? Will Brett Prebble and Douglas Whyte continue from where they left off on the weekend in the Australian Guineas?
Win, lose or draw, it promises to be a brilliant day of racing and a winning day for sponsor BMW with a captive market for its sales strategy, the HKJC and the winner of the Derby.
The question is this: After this euphoria, then what? Sit tight and enjoy the ride.
It could finally lead to places that those who believe everything they read think is up and running, but which are two million light years away from home…and the truth and reality.
Hans Ebert ©