By Hans Ebert
With memories of the extraordinary win of Winx in the Cox Plate yesterday, and underlining the sheer brilliance of Hugh Bowman, surely one of the top three riders in the world, if not the best, but still unrecognised outside of Australia, playing non-stop in the windmills of this mind, it’s very difficult to go over the harrowed ground of racing last Thursday at Happy Valley on the dreaded C+3 Course, where every jockey in every race must have received the same riding instructions: Lead at all costs.
It was greyhound racing, and if not leading, one was either going backwards, or going up and down in the same spot like a yo yo mama. In many ways, it was like watching eight 1000m races at Shatin where one only follows those horses drawn the outside barriers giving them a shorter path to victory. It was tedious racing compounded by all the pre-race warnings reported in the Stipes Report that all was, perhaps, not well with $1.8 favourite Joy Luck Win. The horse was cleared to run after a vet’s check behind the barriers, it was not sighted at anytime during the race, and that’s because, after being hard-ridden and not making any headway, it was eased down 100 metres from home when obvious to an experienced horseman like Douglas Whyte that there was something wrong with Joy Luck Win. So, quelle supris when reading the Stipes Report that the red hot favourite was found to have- all together now- “substantial mucous in the trachea”. And with that virtual non-run, out went nearly everyone’s Six Ups, Triple Trios, All Up Wins, Trebles etc.
Frankly, the highlight of quite a messy meeting with two jockeys being suspended- Keith Yeung and Derek Leung- an adjourned enquiry into apprentice Jack Wong’s ride on Fat Choy Hong Kong, Chad Schofield questioned over his ride on Ovett, the disappointing run of Noble Deluxe whose action by the start had concerned jockey Nash Rawiller, but was also passed fit to race, and, of course, the no joy, the no luck and the non win of Joy Luck Win, was running into this beauty at the Beer Garden.
Meanwhile, to those who have written in about the three new Amigos panel on “Racing To Win” the ongoing mega mini series dismissing winner Foodie as looking to have had “too much foodie”, well, one can only suppose it’s the best team available as, apparently, experienced English-speaking racing personalities come with a price tag considered too expensive, or else have no interest in the job. Mark Shean came, looked around and bolted. The relatively unknown Anthony Manton was supposedly a done deal, but never showed. And so, one either switches off so as not to be led up the proverbial garden path by three guys doing their best to tip some winners, but who are hardly Deane Lester or Mark Hunter, and follow their own hunches so there’s no one else to blame, or put up with potential talent auditioning and jabbering on the job. Jabbering: There’s no other word for it with mentions about fridges and kebabs and the song Endless Love.
This is not “denigrating” anyone, especially as new boy Edward Sadler is already showing signs of improvement with his off-camera interviews. Just don’t have the producers of these broadcasts think young Edward is ready to call races. This is where lies the problem: Those in charge of these broadcasts refusing to see various problems staring viewers- and viewers are customers- in the face, and sticking to programming formats that went out with the Noddy Holder. The Bay City Rollers, and Carnaby Street flares.
Let’s not even get into the fact that many buildings in Hong Kong don’t even have access to the high definition Chinese channel J2 that has the English broadcasts available via NICAM. Frankly, we’ve got used to watching the races on NOWTV’s Channel 668 in Cantonese- all these numbers and all these channels- and following the horses numbers appearing at the bottom of the screen. It’s all rather Retro, but it’s better than nothing. Plus if you nod off, after the last race has been run, the entire meeting is repeated over and over and over again.
On a more positive note, word from many in Melbourne whose opinion we respect is that Amigo Clint Hutchison has very quickly become a very popular new addition to the racing.com team. “He actually smiles”, said someone involved with their coverage of the races. “It’s so refreshing compared to sitting there looking angry with the world”. Hmmmm, wonder who he could be talking about?
As for today, since the mighty Sheikh Mo himself stepped in and demanded that stable jockey James Doyle ride Complacent in the Cox Plate, and overruled whoever had promised the ride to Joao Moreira, this should pour cold water all over those rumours about Godolphin wooing The Magic Man.
With these games of thrones and plotted speculation out of the way, magic will once again be in the air in Hong Kong, and we can dance with the fairies and unicorns once again. On Thursday night, Moreira rode a brilliant quartet of winners, and looks like carrying on in this grand tradition at Shatin this afternoon on what is the best card of the season so far where we see the return of Aerovelocity, Able Friend, and Thewizardofoz.
Forgetting the first race which looks like a snake pit for punters, races 5 and 7 also look extremely difficult whereas the others should go according to script- famous last words that have seen the obvious crash and burn- with the last race set to be a mouth watering clash between Blizzard and Thewizardofoz. What about Aerovelocity and Able Friend? Personally, I cannot see them running in the top two of the Premier Bowl- my picks would be Not Listenin’ tome, Smart Volatility, and, at huge odds, Bundle Of Joy- whereas I’ll be giving the following horses a wide berth: Premium Champion (Race 3), Hard Ball Get (Race 5), Winnam (Race 7) while having a nagging doubt about hot favourite Contentment winning the Shatin Trophy from barrier eleven. Here, I lean towards Beauty Only with the tenacious Neil Callan up. But, Contentment does have the Magic Man as his pilot, so…
If a tipster, which I am clearly not, I would pass on the first three races and look at the following starting from race 4:
These, however, are only opinions, and like assholes, we all have one- and some more opinionated than others. It makes the world go round.