“What a crap way to end a crap day of racing!” Disgruntled punter after Day One of “the championships”.
And it came to pass that on Easter Monday, April 7, 2015, Day One of “the championships” finally got underway as the sun fought hard to bathe down on Royal Randwick after a rain-delayed start.
The sun might have been fighting to be seen, and the Heavy 9 track might have been upgraded, but nothing quite panned out the way it should have. There was no magic, no Gai Day, and nothing much that said “championships.” Even race caller Darren Flindell seemed to run outta puff as time and the track bias rolled by and on and on and on.
It was good that the races were taking place…or was it? But what were RNSW’s options right then and there? The racing club had made its bed and had to lie in it- nails and all. The meeting had to take place. It was a question of damned if you do- and damned if you don’t- even if Tuesday was a work day.
Who won “The Donny”? Marie? By that time rolled on, one wonders how many really cared though the question of “Who’s The Boss?” was answered.
Going back to the future, it was interesting, and also amusing, how many on Saturday wanted to make their thoughts known about this two-day racing carnival at Randwick christened “The Championships” by the messiah of Australian racing and his marketing muppets.
First came all the excitement about what, despite a track that was a Heavy 9, promised to be a brilliant day of racing starring Gai Waterhouse, Team Lady GaiGai, below, Joao Moreira and Zac Purton- the HKJC’s global ambassadors of racing- The Doncaster, James McDonald, Chris Waller, Damien Oliver, John O’Shea’s Team Godolphin etc.
The twittering about how the “show must go on” was ceaseless. It was a murder of twittering crows. Then, when news of the postponement of Day One of these so-called “championships” was announced until Monday, came the next tsunami of twittering to announce this with earlier “the show must go on” tweets quickly deleted by their originators. New ones were submitted for twitter consumption by those really, really wishing to be seen as game changers in a sport that desperately needs changing- but not through ceaseless and humourless 140 words or less that simply regurgitate what everyone else is also busily banging on about.
While Greg Miles, one of Australia’s finest race callers, couldn’t contain himself by rubbing salt into NSW’s wound by mentioning the wonderful Saturday weather enjoyed in Melbourne and at that state’s race meeting at Caulfield, one could not help but think that despite the niceties heard on Monday morning between various racing clubs, these “championships” have an underling layer of politics and a history of penis envy attached to them- a combination of Spy Vs Spy, All The President’s Men, Gordon Gekko, Cain And Abel, and A Tale Of Two Cities.
They are politics and agendas not played for Twitter Stakes with much of it having to do with long-running soap operas- and horse operas- full warring states, threats, biting the hand that feeds you, playing the man, not the ball, jealousy, the enemy within, the enemy without and everything in-between.
In the midst of it all, in a cameo role, was and is the golden goose and marquee value marketing magnet that is “The Magic Man” and “the world’s best jockey” in Joao Moreira.
Though in Hong Kong the fawning and man love to get into the good books of the brilliant Brazilian rider has been reined in- after almost two years, just how many ways can one say, “Everybody Loves Joao” and “abracadabra” before asking, What’s in it for us?- the carrots dangled for him to leave his current home base have become jet-propelled- and a game being played out in the Theatre Of The Absurd that’s become way too obvious.
Will Joao Moreira leave Hong Kong? Of course, he will. When? Where? Why? All will be clear when Moreira signs on for the next Hong Kong racing season- if he does- and whether he’d want- and receive- another six month license just as he did at the start of this season so he could weigh out his options. Or, with the popular consensus being that family man Joao Moreira is perfectly happy, for the time being, with life in Hong Kong and the conga line of able amigos he has made and opportunities that have come his way.
Until then, he’ll smile and flirt with his suitors, never say never to anything as, well, the poor boy from Brazil who has done so well for himself and his family, wants to do better.
There’s nothing at all wrong with this. It’s about looking out for número Uno- and family. Family comes first, especially for Joao Moreira.
Frankly, we should all be looking out for número uno and never ever be side-tracked by turning into mush or becoming Kunta Kinte lemmings without constantly asking oneself, “What’s in it for me and those closest to me?”
In the meantime, the HKJC won’t exactly be sitting there with its legs spread wide open asking to be screwed over. They’ll be weighing out options, they’ll be looking at new platforms and delivery systems for the sport, building brands, building venues, moving the chess pieces while knowing that the Club will always be in complete control of its main KPI: turnover, no matter who stays or goes, or decides to stay on and play as part of a team.
As for today’s races at Shatin, there is one school of thought that feels his hit-and-run trips take their toll on Joao Moreira, and that he usually has a disappointing day upon his return. He does?
Looking at his book of rides, he appears to have four solid win chances- Top Bonus (R4), Dashing Fellow (R5), Able Friend (R7) and Country Melody (R10)- and maybe enough to crack that century of winners. Time will tell.
THE INSIDE TRACK
BRUCE ALMIGHTY WITH ZAC AND JOAO.
Terrific interviews with Zac Purton and Joao Moreira by Laidback Brucie Clark, below, yesterday morning on Oz racing’s favourite funeral station RSN- nothing over-the-top with rampant man love a la Shane O and Wayne O, but good infotainment.
It was also good to hear The Zac Attack keep that, er, confidence in check and talk about the camaraderie between him and the Magic Man, explain what makes his on-track rival the very special rider that he is, and, quite rightly, pour cold water on some rubbish read somewhere from someone about Brazilian jockeys getting horses to “change their legs during a race.” It was then time for the phone interview with Joao Moreira. If he was excited about having Joao on his show, Brucie clasped his thighs and kept any man love under wraps.
Andrew Webster had already written an excellent and definitive piece in the Age on the early days of Moreira in Brazil, and his struggle to simply get the chance to ride a horse.
Brucie managed to get Joao to talk about those days, his love of horses, his passion for riding, the “night rustling” escapades as a pre-teen where he rode horses bareback, which probably helped give him his great balance, and his early years as a mafoo, or stable hand, before finally given the chance to ride as an apprentice in São Paulo.
Joao Moreira is a star. He is a wonderful raconteur as he has such an interesting back story to tell and has that incredible knack of winning over everyone he meets- many who know nothing about horse racing.
To hear someone as experienced as racing guru and professional tipster Deane Lester appear on Brucie’s show after the Moreira interview and say, “I don’t feel worthy” spoke volumes about the spell this brilliant, humble rider, who’s never forgotten his past despite looking at the future, has on everyone he meets.
Of course with great responsibility, and even greater publicity, and when unable to boot home a brace of winners, come the BOOM BOOM knockers. And oh-so-quickly as if waiting there to pounce. Sad. It must be their life’s calling- and the after-effects of drinking from that half-empty glass.
RSN AND ITS PRE-OCCUPATION WITH ADVERTISING DEATH.
You can run, but if listening in to racing and sports station RSN, there is no getting away from the relentless onslaught of adverts for funeral homes, which, say mates in Melbourne’s, tells you much about its audience.
With one of RSN’s major funeral home advertisers being Browne’s Funeral Homes. As we had a few spare minutes while celebrating life, we came up with this spot for Browne. No need to thank us.
“There you are dancing your arse off thinking you’re a cross between Rihanna and Kanye going spaz, having just won the entire Quaddie all by yourself with Shane O and Brucie wanting to interview you- and then it hits you: What if you were to bang your head too hard against the wall…and it’s curtains for you? Wouldn’t you want a great send off? That’s where we come in- Browne Brothers Funeral Homes. We’ll give your mates a memory of you they’ll never forget. Want Quinny to deliver the eulogy to confuse the hell outta everyone? Haha! Can do! Want Peter V’landys to talk to your mates from the Great Beyond- RNSW? Hahaha! Can do! Want to be buried with your favourite apps? Can do! Remember us: Browne with an E. We put the FUN in FUNERALS!”
ENTER THE DRIBBLERS…
Why is Hong Kong suddenly attracting dribblers from Sydney and Melbourne who feel compelled to reinvent themselves and create new personalities for themselves?
One bloke we recently met told us he was a “breeder and owner.” He had forgotten we had met him years ago- in Melbourne- where he remains what he still is today: a racing groupie desperately needing to be mates with every jockey- the good, the bad and the unknown.
Last week, we were subjected to relentless name droppings about “his” horses “with Gai” (of course), “his” jockeys- “Tom and Jose” (Jose??? Jose Feliciano???), his big wins that’s seen him “banned by nearly every corporate bookmaker”, and his big nights out in Wanchai.
Seriously, Why? And the bloke wondered why people he tried to impress in Dubai with the same dribbling- shows the calibre of try-hards allowed in to Sheikh Mo’s Meydan Garden Party- avoiding him like the plague?
RSN AND ITS OVER THE TOP BLOODY IDIOTS.
Back to RSN and, this time, its series of “Bloody Idiot” anti-drin and driving radio spots which, again, says much about its audience.
Here, we offer the station a new script which Meryl, that shocking female voice-over artiste, can turn into another over-the-top cringeworthy drivel.
“Ummm, this thing? I don’t know what I was thinking. Ritchie was talking, heh heh heh, as usual. Get him started on Chris and he can’t fucking stop. Hehehheh. Ummmm. So, I started to block him out by gulping down a bottle of Jose Cuervo, and next thing I knew, I’m here- yakking to you.
Only a little bit over the top? My bad. What a bloody idiot. Now I have a tatt right across my forehead that says, “Mr Roarke.” I don’t even know what it means.”
NO, IRISHMAN NEIL CALLAN DID NOT PROOF-READ THE SPELLING OF “TURF”.
THE FAST TRACKER GOES LOOKING FOR SOME ABLE FRIENDS…
Brett Prebble looks to have a strong book of rides today and could start the day off on a winning note by giving trainer Almond Lee his much-needed 15th winner via Best Jade Triumph (2) which will ensure him retaining his trainer’s license next season.
This can be taken as a banker, but finding the legs is like trying to find that bloody needle.
The Zac Attack should strike here with last start winners Rouge Et Blanc though trying to snare the Quartet won’t be easy.
Prepare for a massive Quartet payout!
The interesting runner is first starter and fairly expensive NZ purchase named Happy Agility. Some who know this horse which was purchased for Hong Kong on the strength of a trial, dismiss Happy Agility as “average”, but its recent trackwork has shown considerable improvement and the booking of Purton is a significant one.
The favourite might be Winner St Paul, still very much a big baby and learning to race, but sure to be far more suited to the bigger Shatin track than Happy Valley where it raced at its last start like a drunken sailor searching for Pinky’s Tattoo Bar.
It has barrier ten to overcome, and, like a few others in this race, looks to be needing longer than the 1200m it tackles here.
Brett Prebble should, however, know the young galloper’s quirks, let it find its feet and have it storm home off the pace to, at least be in the top three. If it wins, it might see a revival of the former very tight partnership between jockey and trainer Dennis Yip.
Though taking Top Bonus (12) on a win line, which has everything to suit here, there are two runners engaged that seem to be running into form and will fly under the radars of many- and at odds: Ultimate Winners (3) and Ambitious Speedy (11).
FIRST LEG OF TT AND QUARTET: BANKERS: (4-12) LEGS: 3-5-8-9-11-13
Superoi was disappointing at its last start, but with Douglas Whyte, fresh from a double last Wednesday night, and taking an unusual backseat role to all the talk surrounding Moreira and Purton, sticking with it and riding two pounds over, is a tip in itself. There’s then the extra 200m it tackles here, which should suit it, and have it run into the top three placings.
The other place chances can be narrowed down to Dr Good Habit, Número Uno, Forever Accurate, Graceful Kingdom and Hit A Home Run with the winner looking to be Dashing Fellow for the John Moore-Joao Moreira combination.
QUARTET: BANKERS: (10-14) LEGS: 1-3-9-11-12-13
Moreira weaved his magic to get a win outta Athena’s Baby at its last start. It might start favourite again and, if it does, I’ll take it on as the winner. It’s running over 1600m here for the first time, and I think this longer trip will take its toll on an average conveyance.
This being the last leg of the Triple Trio, no Athena’s Baby amongst the top three place getters will mean a better payout with me preferring the David Hall-trained Heroic Guru on a win line.
The enigmatic galloper nearly won its last start when Brett Prebble took it almost to the grandstand rails from where it ran its own race and stormed home, off the pace, and down the outside, to run a closing third over 1400m to Kids And Win. The 1600m it tackles here for the first time should suit it even better though it could eventually even be able to run out a strong 2000m.
The horse obviously loathes being crowded and it will be interesting to see what tactics Prebble will employ today whereas Joyful Moments (8), which will also appreciate the extra distance it tackles here, can go very close in a very difficult race.
The Chairman’s Trophy where Champion Miler Able Friend, no doubt bloody grateful it wasn’t forced to wade through Randwick’s heavy 9 bog track yesterday, faces six others with the question being who’ll run the quinella. Other than that, sit back and watch the John Moore-trained galloper’s exhibition outing.
There was a surprising plunge on The Sylph at its last start which nearly came off. The same team of Andy Suborics and David Ferraris, below, a team hardly known for big betting plunges, are back with the galloper and it can’t be dismissed.
Though I remain unconvinced about Sergeant Titanium, only a fool would ignore a Johnny Size-trained galloper going for its fourth straight win with Moreira aboard.
Here it’s racing up a class, but can still take this out with the main danger looking to be the jockey who once knew that Size mattered- DW Whyte- aboard the progressive Up And Coming.
A 1000m dash and where two Shatin sprint specialists make their long-awaited reappearances after enforced layouts through setbacks- Rad, which Dougie Whyte jumps on leaving regular ride Key Witness to new boy Damian Lane, whereas Olivier Doleuze is reunited with bon ami Eagle Regiment. Both will be heavily backed, and, if over their injuries, they will go close with the fly in the ointment being Smart Volatility.
A very interesting- and even- race which sees Joao Moreira stick with Country Melody which lost its last start at the barriers- it tackles 1200m for the first time here- and get off Strathmore. Strathmore screamed BACK ME at its last start and Nash “The Wok Man” Rawiller, below, takes over on, and he’ll make the most of this winning opportunity from trainer Tony Millard.
Meanwhile, in an interesting move, Zac Purton deserts Righteous, which, today, is ridden by Brett Prebble, to jump aboard first starter Divine Boy. Both can’t be left out of calculations.
BEST BET: RACE 5 DASHING FELLOW (8)
NEXT BEST: RACE 4 TOP BONUS (12)
LONGSHOT: RACE 6 JOYFUL MOMENTS (8)