By Hans Ebert
* The HKIJC Post-race party at Adrenaline- an incredible melting pot of different nationalities, and personalities comprising racing fans, a bevy of stunning HKJC Racing Ambassadors, racing executives and some of the best jockeys in the world, all leaving their egos at the door, and actually having FUN. Racing can be FUN? Wowser! What a concept!
* The usual freeloaders, mainly from the land Down Under, who are suddenly stricken with acute arthritis of the hands every time a bill arrives, and then suffer from shooting pains up their arse when reaching for that elusive wallet.
* The unbridled and infectious enthusiasm of the social media “influencers” from the U.S. and simply happy to be in Hong Kong during HKIR week. They sure beat those cynics plodding around carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and looking like Quasimodo looking for dem bells.
* The brilliant magic carpet ride of Joao Moreira, where he bounced Peniaphobia out from barrier 14, had it on the rails before one could say “Poof”, made his rivals believe his horse would run outta steam, packed them up…and then took off with a loud “Adios, Amigos!” to win the 1200m Hong Kong Sprint and add to the International successes of trainer Tony Cruz, Hong Kong’s favourite racing son.
* The win of unheralded Gavin Lerena to take out the HKIJC for South Africa, and odds-on to ride in Hong Kong on a more permanent basis next season.
* All those from Oz asking questions about G1X Racing: “Other than over-the-top self-promotion for the once jobless, what do they do?” “What’s the end game? And, “When will (founder) John Wall switch off the financial tap?”
* Racing from Hay Market- surely, it should be called Haymarket?- with its stunning view of the track, brilliant interior design, excellent service and value for money, and convenient betting facilities.
Suggestions: Better “ground staff” to point first-timers to the venue without having to circumnavigate almost all of Shatin racecourse to get to where one wants to go, and for racing fans not part of computer syndicates and living and breathing racing 24/7, easier-to-read publications. What’s available now are more of a hindrance than a help- like those iRace form guides we make the sign of the crucifix and say a few Hail Marys before rejecting whenever offered at both racecourses.
* The very low key appearance all week of Australia’s Dame Edna of Racing- Shane Anderson aka Shane O- and the somewhat subdued presence of racing.com
* All the talk about actor and Longines Brand Ambassador Simon “The Mentalist” Baker’s hair. He couldn’t be much of a “mentalist” if we were to believe a tweet that he had asked- yikes- Richie Callander for a tip. As Richie Boy can only tip horses trained by Chris Waller- and with pretty dire form in this area- hopefully, The Mentalist didn’t follow the trainer’s Preferment, which hardly raised a yelp for its backers.
* The consistent brilliance of Ryan Moore at Shatin on Sunday, which made a mockery of the flawed Longines Best Jockey Award concept, and the stunning win of Japan’s A Shin Hikari ridden by the great Yutaka Take to win the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Cup. Another of Japan’s iron horses, the 38 to 1 pop- way over the odds- ran his competitors into the ground.
* The eerie nonchalance by local racing fans to the early news that Able Friend might not run, and then seeing it come in third behind Japan’s very good Maurice and Hong Kong’s Giant Treasure. Could the various stop-start efforts recently surrounding Big Red have possibly become a bit of a Big Bore with racing fans tired of going to the same well one too many times?
* The owners of Mongolian Saturday showing pride of place by continuing to come to events and the races dressed in their traditional deels. Was it really necessary, however, to ask the Mongolian trainer his views on eating horsemeat, which, everyone knows, is part of their culture?
* The use of #HKIR, which did get more than a little tiresome as the week wore on with all photos tweeted with “The great view from my hotel #HKIR,” “Best week of my life!! #HKIR” and “Track work at #Shatin #Awesome #HKIR” and “Look at my hat!#Awesome!#HKIR”. How boring was it? According to one measure, over 4,000 Instagrammers and Twitterers posted #HKIR over 18,000 times from Dec 7th to 13th . . . #omg. The less said about #CheerHKIR, the better.
Looking back, what an amazing week it’s been- the coming together of an United Nations of Racing, all in this remarkable city called Hong Kong. We had the world’s best jockeys and trainers showcasing their skills, talent and magnificent equine product at two of the most famous racecourses in the world. Everyone had time to explore this city and understand what makes it tick. Most of all, for orchestrating everything with such precise timing, we have our hosts to thank- the team at the HKJC. They did a magnificent job.
For myself, there were many nights when it was going back in time to what Woodstock might have been like, and dancing buck naked with wild hippie chicks while Santana played “Soul Sacrifice”, and Cocker Power was unleashed.