(Courtesy of http://www.fasttrack.hk)
Perhaps it’s the stifling heat and too many mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun, but we’re still easing ourselves into the new racing season. While the HKJC continues to pour cold water on all those purported to be “bringing horse racing to Mainland China” by forming genuine partnerships and new initiatives, racing in Hong Kong has had a measured start this year with the meetings held looking a bit like dress rehearsals before the main attractions take place. The field sizes in some of the races on Saturday were relatively small whereas the quality of some of the horses going around- and a few of the rides- left something to be desired. It’s all a little skewed off centre, at least for the time being. But turnover is ticking over nicely, attendance was up on Saturday and you know what they say about a wheel if it ain’t broke. Still, there are oddities.
Last week, for instance, trainer Sean Woods railed to the SCMP that his galloper Full Speed Ahead had won “the worst race- ever”. After Saturday’s races, trainer Chris So was reported as saying that his charge Sea Warrior had won “the weakest Class 4 race.” Can’t these trainers simply be thankful for winning races for the owners who pay their bills? If one didn’t know any better, some might get the feeling that those meant to promote the sport in Hong Kong are looking at every which way possible to tear it apart, and are clutching at straws to do so while biting the very hand that feeds them. Someone explain to them why one should not keep poking the bear. Either that or show them a map of Australia and the state of racing going down under.
Getting away from those drinking from half-empty glasses, the genius of John Size was there for all to see on Saturday with the wins of Amazing Kids and Too Fast, two horses with still room for improvement, still with plenty of rating points in hand, and with this consummate horseman knowing full well that, along with Thewizardofoz, he has two other potential Group 1 winners in his stable, something that can only benefit Hong Kong racing, and which makes the whingeing of trainers like Sean Woods sound like a combination of terminal frustration mixed with vinegar.
As for riding honours, with a five-timer, only a complete dolt would say that the Magic Man has lost his hocus focus. Joao Moreira put on a clinic for racing fans at Shatin, and quickly silenced certain quarters in the Chinese racing media starting up their usual tedious game of Chinese whispers and conspiracy theories. Like geographically-challenged Twitter trolls who become experts on anything and everything and make complete arses of themselves in the process, those who expect this exceptional rider to ride trebles, quartets and quintets every race meeting should get real and get a life.
On the subject of Joao Moreira, though we’re very quickly tiring of Twitter, and the trolls that come outta the tall poppy fields and that place called Boganville, it’s still an interesting homing zone to read who’s saying what, and why.
The tweet above is interesting in that it shows Joao Moreira at his media savvy best- lobbying a few headline-grabbing crumbs, and then walking away unaware- or very aware- of the feeding frenzy his words will cause. He’s not only the Magic Man in the saddle, he’s a street smart maverick when it comes to winning over a fawning racing media- and he plays them every chance he gets. With his son settled in school, his wife happy enough with life in Hong Kong despite not having her Brazilian friends around, and having paid 15% personal tax on the HK$29 million in earnings in the form of prize money he made last season- approximately AUS$5 million- does one seriously think that Moreira would throw it all away to travel for hours to get on a few winners only to be pounded by almost fifty percent in taxes?
Tonight at Happy Valley, the start of the annual Oktoberfest promotion where the press release promises “lashings of fine German beers”- let’s hope there are none of those chug-a-lugging drinking competitions that end in major hurling- there are the usual eight races to be won and where, often, The Magic Man puts his wand away and gives lesser mortals the chance to shine in the spotlight. Complete domination is never good for business, especially in sports where, to paraphrase those geniuses with ABBA, one winner can’t always be seen to taking it all.
Looking at the card, though Moreira has undeniable chances in races 3,4,5,7and 8, tonight looks like being the race meeting where Zac Purton aka “The Postman” delivers the goods after a slightly belated start to the season with an ankle injury and cuts into The Magic Man’s lead. As seen on Saturday when he placed and won on his four rides for the day, Purton is a brilliant rider, doesn’t ever settle for being second best- and doesn’t raise a sweat getting results. The Postman becomes The Iceman Cometh.
With the dynamic duo possibly carving up most of the card, it will all come down to where there might be chinks in their armour, and following those deadly accurate last minute plunges well-known Aussie bookmaker Mark Read talks very openly about below along with his Hong Kong “hedge fund”, success rate for clients, which leads one to an interesting website. Whether the one-time successful bookmaker talked too much, and if there’s any fallout from any of this, remains to be seen. You dig?
Hong Kong Horse Racing: The Movie?
The news this week that Li Ruigang, below, and his company China Media Capital (CMC) and Warner Brothers Entertainment will form an international production and distribution partnership called the Flagship Entertainment Group and based in Hong Kong, should give the HKJC some food for thought.
The new joint venture aims to capitalise on the burgeoning film market in Mainland China, the world’s second largest, where box office receipts increased by 36 percent last year to 29.6 billion yuan, or HK$36 billion. Dubbed “China’s Rupert Murdoch” for his experience and interest in all aspects of the media, Li Ruigang has been seen as the future of television programming and film content in Mainland China since his days as the whizz kid of Shanghai Media Group. With him also being a major shareholder of Young Lion Holdings, a controlling shareholder with a 26 percent stake in leading terrestrial broadcaster HKTVB, the new and main delivery platform for Hong Kong racing, it should make the HKJC think of something suggested by the station to the Club almost four years ago: Produce original content on horse racing that captures the lifestyle aspects of the sport.
Fast forward to today and with senior officials on the Mainland wishing to see the “Made In China” brand “travel” overseas and be recognised for its business and creative efforts, surely a documentary on Hong Kong racing- and lest anyone forgets, Hong Kong is part of China- or a short film using racing in Hong Kong as its backdrop, which can make its way to film festivals such as the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, or even a joint production with France Galop, is just around the corner and with no great walls stopping this from happening?
Horse Racing’s New Handsome (And Attractive) Jockeys Club
We were taken aback to hear that Fast Track’s list of The Handsome Jockeys Club has been creating frenzied debates on Facebook. That’s all very nice, but this Top Ten was published almost one year ago and inspired by The Handsome Men’s Club.
The new Fast Track Handsome Jockeys Club Top Ten will be out next week along with other results from our recent poll to find out the Who’s Who of attractive female riders. We’re tipping Kayla Nisbet will rate highly on the new list. Again.
Ben Semmens: Back To His Second Home
Welsh singer-songwriter Ben Semmens, who helped so much to give the Beer Garden at Happy Valley an extra surge of adrenaline, is all set to return to the venue in December.
Semmens, who has been busy writing songs for a new project, and creating an online delivery platform for the creative community called Home Made, won’t be using a backup band when here for his fourth visit to Hong Kong. Instead, like Ed Sheeran, Semmens will perform with a loop pedal with some surprises promised to enhance his onstage appearances.
Also, don’t be surprised to see Katharine Coetzee, and her band Something Crooked at the Beer Garden.
The daughter of the great South African jockey Felix Coetzee has been pursuing a career in theatre and entertainment since returning home following the retirement in the saddle of her father, and has certainly been making a name for herself in Capetown with various bands and good original material- dark, twisted, energy-fuelled music that would find a very good home for itself at the international melting pot that is the Beer Garden.
Macau: Continuing to go to the dogs
It’s good to see the heat being turned up again on that evil empire known as the Macau Canindrome where, for almost two decades, greyhounds imported from Australia have mysteriously “disappeared” or suffered inhumane living conditions and ultimate deaths.
Whether this heat will achieve anything is something else altogether as somewhere, somehow, this Canindrome is allowed to carry on regardless despite having been a ghost venue for more than ten years. And losing businesses in Macau being allowed to carry on despite no money coming in- and zero attempts to make the Macau Jockey Club, which, at what one time looked like being a profitable business, allowed to plod along- only means one thing, and why, Macau remains the money laundering capital of the world.
On the subject of the MJC, an eerie silence surrounds the whereabouts of former champion galloper Viva Pataca, which was retired, and then quietly brought back from New Zealand to live out the rest of his life in a stable on Taipa Island at the request of owner and ailing casino magnate Stanley Ho, or those hovering around the one-time dynamic, extremely powerful and charismatic businessman. Watch this all end in tears.
Happy Wednesday plays Dan and Phil’s 7 Second Challenge
With their game play and quirky take on life events, England’s Dan and Phil are two of the most popular YouTubers in the world today. They have their own award-winning radio show on BBC’s Radio 1 and their YouTube channels have a combined audience of some 8 million subscribers. In September 2014, they launched their YouTube game channel and gained a record 700,000 subscribers in less than 24 hours, making Dan and Phil Games the fastest channel launch in YouTube history.
Last month, they debuted a new phone app that requires some quick thinking and gets lots of laughs. Fasttrack took Dan and Phil’s 7 Second Challenge out into the Happy Wednesday crowd at Happy Valley and had a blast.
FROM THE RACING TWITTERVERSE
The Uh Oh Department
The I Am Me And You Are Me And We Are All Together Department
THE FAST TRACKER GOES IN SEARCH OF WIENERS AT THE START OF OKTOBERFEST AT HAPPY WEDNESDAY.
After winning what his trainer Sean Woods described as “the worst race- ever” at its last start, Class 5 galloper Full Speed Ahead tackles a more suitable distance and sets out to win what the Woodsman might possibly describe as “the second worst race- ever.” Someone get the old boy some happy pills.
The very tough first leg to the Six Up. Odds are many will fall right here.
Get ready to sing “The Ying Tong Song”.
It was possibly Mark Read’s “hedge fund” money that backed Po Ching Treasure (5) at Shatin at its last start. After leading and looking a good hope, it faded. It quickly backs up, and now tries Happy Valley. Will we be Mark Reading the tea leaves again? Hmmmm. Will we also be following Formula Won (1) again, which was supposed to have been “flying” before its last start? Yes, we will.
RACE 7 Formula Won (1)
RACE 5 Ten Flames (9)
RACE 2 Winning Mascot (10)