Hypocrisy and phoniness are, of course, rampant in every aspect of life, though it has to be said that the world of horse racing does a very good job of sticking its neck out and often winning the photo finish in these Stakes.
In the very rich goldfish bowl that is Hong Kong, and with all roads paved in gold, hypocrisy is part of every industry with real friendships an endangered species. Add to this, envy, suspicion, and in horse racing circles, a laughable sense of entitlement arises.
Blame the latter on those sycophants who are willing to go to extremes to curry favours with trainers, and jockeys, especially, and a few local “racing personalities”- Chinese and expat- in a very misguided attempt to expand their social circle- and probably feel loved.
They wine and dine and “invest” and “fund” nights out for what they hope will be their human “laisee packets” in expensive private clubs. What develops are “friendships” with serial sugar daddies, some with more money than brains, who have been known to even come to the rescue by taking on debts in the hopes of some future payback that never ever strikes midnight, but has made big pumpkins and pakoras of many.
Entitlement rearing its head in racing in Hong Kong is ugly. Uglier is why and how this has happened, starting, when some falsely believed that friendships, especially with jockeys, were their short-cut to riches via the “tips” routes- the insider trading of the racing industry the world over. It was one side trying to screw over the other and thinking the ride will last forever. They never do. That Karma Chameleon comes calling.
As bon vivants like the late Michael Bastion, below, the larger-than-life “matey” of so many in racing, who led such a flamboyant lifestyle in Hong Kong before his fatal fall- literally- from grace- and his balcony- proved, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Bastion fell to his death owning some of the biggest names in racing, some now back in Oz, millions in promised get-rich quick schemes, where, as was learnt later, paid for the expensive lie he had to live.
Michael Bastion might no longer be with us and many truths died with him. But there have been many after him. Who can forget the smooth-talking Brit James Neal? Neal, a former polo player, who had fallen on hard times, came to Hong Kong with nothing except for some cravats, suits and the gift of the gab. Within months, he was floating like a butterfly in the company of leading jockeys with his new clairvoyant girlfriend named, well, Clare.
Alas, Clare the Clairvoyant couldn’t see her beau landing in jail in Sydney. This was when James Neal was nabbed for the biggest haul in Oz of the drug known as ice. He and his cronies had packed the drug inside thousands of bottles of wine exported from Hong Kong. Who was conned into believing these wines had a market and buyer in Sydney is a story not to be resurrected again. Let it lie down with those other sleeping dogs.
The notorious Cosmo Chan aside, along with his posse and their tentacles reaching deep into Oz racing circles, there are always those only too happy to be racing groupies, some for those tips- there rarely are any unless accompanied with a price tag- and others to be in the company of jockeys and trainers who’ll give them their fix of fifteen minutes of fame in return for picking up the various tabs.
What all this has resulted in is a sense of warped entitlement where those taken in by Hong Kong’s often over-the-top lifestyle start believing their own hype and become legends in their own lunchtime. It’s what is known as the Kanye West Syndrome. But Kanye West is a global superstar. He’s entitled to be whoever and whatever he wants to be.
Life is all about give and take. Gain a reputation for being nothing but a “Hobbitual” user, and rugs can easily be pulled from under when least expected.
If “entitlement” is to work, it needs to work both ways. When it doesn’t, someone has to pay the piper- and it’s never ever the side that has been elevated to a dizzying height of false importance.
It’s part of a game played in Hong Kong racing circles since “back in the day” when Hong Kong was a fabulous playground for everyone from Peter Miers, Gary Moore, Philip Robinson, Danny Brereton, Nigel Tiley and trainers like Bob Burns, Roy Edwards and Rod Turvey to Danny Nikolic, Darryl Holland, Jimmy Quinn, Kieran Fallon and every big name in horse racing.
It’s a very different Hong Kong today when it comes to integrity in the sport.
What still exists, however is this belief by some in racing that they are entitled to be treated as VIPs. And this is where “entitlement” often turns into “disposable” in a heartbeat.
After all, in racing as with every other sport or industry, people have short memories, and one is only as good, or useful, as their last success. Or win.
Everyone loves a winner until the winning stops. And in Hong Kong, whether the stock market, the property market, or in racing, they invest to play to win. All the time.
FROM THE RACING TWITTERVERSE
THE INSIDE TRACK
WHAT “SLEDGING” FROM THE ZAC ATTACK???
“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”, said Mark Twain, and so was the news from one racing site in Oz that Zac Purton was involved in “sledging” last Sunday as he crossed the line ahead of Joao Moreira in race nine at Shatin. Far from it. The two top jocks were having a laugh with the Zac Attack aiming a good natured jibe at The Magic Man who was enjoying another magical day in the saddle. Watch the head-on footage of the race and the two even fist pump each other after they pass the winning post as part of a mutual admiration society. They might have even held hands trotting back to the unsaddling area.
On a more serious note, Zac Purton has curbed previous tendencies to say too much and where being outspoken was taken for cockiness. He has even reined in his presence on Twitter.
The boy from Coffs Harbour has grown up, he’s become more wise and worldly, and has become a very good ambassador for Hong Kong racing as befits a champion world class jockey. Misinformed scribblings as those that appeared on this site paint the jockey out to be a bit of a dickhead with a nasty streak to his personality- which is definitely not the case.
WHEN AN AMIGO MET THE GREAT FRENCH SWORDSMAN
One of the more memorable interviews took place earlier this week. This was when Amigo Brett interviewed the great Gerald Mosse for that spooky midnight hour thriller called “Racing To Whinge”.
Possibly feeling he had quickly become a bon ami of Monsieur Mosse, our favourite Amigo, who’s said a number of daft things over the years, not just broached, but jumped head-first into the fire asking Mosse about him forgoing putting in for a riding license next year and his future plans. The Frenchman tap danced loudly about taking some time out to be an assistant trainer in Europe, but being available, if needed, back here for a short riding stint- excusez moi?- before Amigo Brett went into dangerous territory: Ageism.
Upon being asked, now that he was 47, how he felt, Monsieur Mosse, who has ridden for kings, queens and the Aga Khan, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, asked something to the effect of, “How do you think I feel?” before reeling of proof of his fitness and ability to keep riding winners. Awkward! But not that Amigo Brett would have noticed.
Amigo Brettland is a very special place though one really hopes the running gag about New Zealander Amigo Dilly Lally pronouncing “feesh and cheeps” has run its tired course. Enough!
On the subject of the Three Amigos, form analyst/tipster, and sometime-race caller Anthony Manton
From what we understand, Manton will be in Hong Kong in August though his role is still unknown, as is those of two other new hires, who will be assimilated into Amigoland.
Meanwhile, with former Hong Kong-based Tye Angland on absolute fire these days in Sydney riding doubles and trebles and Timmy Clark chipping in with his share of winners, Darren Flindell’s calls are becoming more and more in hyper mode. They scream out, FILL UP TIME- though the screaming on Thursday for Anzio at Wyong might have been more one of pain.
THE TINDER TRAP
Gawd, we hope this isn’t true even though cricketing great and notorious lothario Shane Warne has admitted to using Tinder, the popular dating app along with a few jocks in Oz.
With recent news that those who have used online dating sites in Hong Kong have been swindled out of $30 million, word is that one local trainer, two former trainers and jockeys have been spotted on Tinder in what could be a very wrong place to be looking for lurve in this small city- even worse than being spotted- and photographed- at Amazonia, Neptune, HK Cafe and the well-known Escape.
RIDICULOUS RUMOUR OF THE WEEK: HONG KONG TO HAVE RACING ALL YEAR ROUND.
Which Einstein comes up with this codswallop? Wait: We know.
SEPARATED AT BIRTH
THE FAST TRACKER DOESN’T GIVE A S***
It seems to have been an extremely long and draining season, which might go down in the annals of Hong Kong racing history as The Magic Season, where and when Joao Moreira had the racing world eating nuts outta the palm of his Brazilian hands with even some of those die-hard Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi Oi Oi Zac Purton fans switching allegiances while all those brilliant exploits of Douglas Whyte not exactly that long ago, disappeared into a distant past. The Cult Of Moreira is here for at least another two years. And then? And then, we’ll see.
For some reason, all this was even more evident at Happy Valley on Wednesday when The Magic Man rode a treble and The Zac Attack and the Durban Demon drew blanks in what was quite a bland meeting, where, if not for the Samba Bamba Boom Boom Girls, there were a lack of the old Rio by the sea-os with girls from Ipanema doing the wah wah Watusi.
Still, compared to all the hand-wringing going on in Oz almost every other day with some bloody drama always linked to “rorts” of some kind, aided and abetted by illiterate social media trolls, a confusing media landscape and racing website with a backend needing a swift kick up its arse or immediate dismantling as it’s such a dog’s breakfast needing new gonads, racing in Hong Kong moves even more lengths ahead of other racing jurisdictions. They should all have the “problems” we have.
So Able Friend did nothing at Ascot. Big deal. Few in Hong Kong gave a shit, but as always, those often misguided Aussies on social media just had to get involved and do The Dance Of The Tall Poppy Syndrome.
Same thing about Craig Williams’ ride on Brazen Beau. You’d think all that twittering about being “on the wrong side of the track” was because they were the horse’s owner or had a few hundred million on it instead of a few hundred bucks. Right, Frankie?
As for giving a shit about anything, though we’re supposed to be enthralled with the current “chase” for Hong Kong’s trainers premiership, come on now, does anyone really give a shit? It’s not exactly one of life’s priorities, is it? It’s not exactly like waking up as Seal and having Heidi Klum next to you. Or waking up and taking off from Project Runway with Heidi Klum.
Unless something happens where there’s money coming into your pockets- or Heidi Klum- why should you give a shit if John Moore, John Size or Caspar Fownes were to win this premiership? Compare their bank balances to that of yours. Who’s doing better? They are- unless you’re Batman and shagging Heidi Klum.
Today, the card looks choreographed/orchestrated for Size to equal Moore with the final two Happy Wednesdays set for the Caspar Fownes Dance-athon to take centre stage when the Magic Man does a disappearing trick to serve out a two day suspension for careless riding copped for a ride at Ascot. No, nothing to do with Able Friend, Nick “Marbles” Quinn, who quickly tweeted about the failure of “another high profile Hong Kong horse”. This from some bloke with TABCORP who wouldn’t know Longchamp from long johns.
Today, Sun Jewellery will win the last for the Size-Moreira McHappy Combo whereas Moore will be banking on Moreira to get Dashing Fellow first past the post. It’s great to be needed. The Fownes-Purton McDouble will combine to win with Accepted and the day will probably end with Johnny Size on equal terms with John Moore in this “championship race”. The only reason for you to give a shit is if you snare some of the jackpots available today, and can then afford to buy all of Sri Lanka and retire there with Heidi Klum and Rihanna.
Perhaps it’s spending way too much time on Twitter, but reading some of the illiterate, dumb and humourless tweets emanating from many from the land down under trying way too hard to be heard over the gunga din of rabid twittering, and be seen as game changers with the clout to make a difference- zero chance of that- has made me stick two fingers in the air and go, Screw it all.
It’s all about me- and Heidi Klum- and winning for myself- and on my terms. I don’t give a shit about anything else and won’t be conned into thinking there is.
Tips? I’m no tipster as I don’t believe in tips or tipsters or “mail”. The only “mail” worth bothering about is if she’s a female named Heidi Klum and you’re the postman who always rings twice like Jack Nicholson on Viagra.
The numbers below? My choices based purely on the riding engagements and some semblance of form. But as these were thought about the night before hitting the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons to see if Summer might be around, and today being totally in the lap of the weather gods, they probably don’t mean shit. But it’s been fun getting all this cynicism down on paper. And if no one reads it? You got it.
The first leg of the Triple Trio and a death trap for those investing in the bet which should see the jackpot ballooning to around $12milion- a 1200 metre race on the all-dirt surface.
Those that need to go in are Trillion Treasure, King Of Household, Modern Fortune and Horse Aplenty, but if there was a need to take a banker, it would be Glorious Avenue, which will be at good odds and has Monsieur Mosse aboard. An outsider: the confusing Snowhooves with trainer Richard Gibson seemingly trying everything by entering this galloper on races over varying distances and here, tackling the all-weather surfaces with that mad Irishman Neil Callan, pictured below, aboard.
Neil Callan disguised as an old Alice Cooper
Moreira sticks with Heroic Guru, which wouldn’t have won its last start when Chevalier Star got an easy lead up front and led all the way, but it was hampered in the straight.
Terrific Master, Unique Joyful, Born To Win must go in, but with not much conviction, whereas I give Triumphant Dragon a chance at good odds with Mosse jumping on the Manfred Man trained galloper- which is better than Mosse jumping on Man.
Accepted is sure to start at very short and curlies after two very good efforts over course and distance- and over rain-lashed Shatin. It makes sense to make this UK import a banker, but these Triple Trios at the end of the season keep snowballing as nothing ever goes to script.
If, for some reason, this Caspar Fownes-trained runner with Zac “Pundon” aboard, pictured below trying to get a tan, doesn’t run in the top three, expect another huge TT jackpot next week. What always makes sense is to mix and match your selections with one line of choices excluding the favourites.
As for this race, Fay Deep has won three (four?) times over course and distance and has regular pilot Derek Leung aboard and must go in along with Good Luck Boy, Sight Believer and for a real blowout- the speedy Thor The Greatest with Mosse aboard. Follow the great Frenchman in everything he rides. He’ll be determined to bow outta Hong Kong racing with a bang.
John Moore has entered the former Gary Moore-trained runner Midnight Rattler, but, really now, a runner from the stable of Gary Moore? Winning? Running a place? Check out what beat it at Wyong- a horse that had had fourteen starts before winning.
SELECTIONS (1-3)- 2-9-11-13
BEST BET: R6 ACCEPTED (1) onto R10 SUN JEWELLERY (14)
NEXT BEST: R8 REGENCY HO HO (3)
LONG SHOT: RACE 9 MEDALLIST (1)