By Hans Ebert
It’s a terrific programme put together for the last race meeting of 2015 with all eyes on the very expensive import Consort, purchased by bloodstock agent George Moore, and the former Sir Michael Stoute-trained galloper with outstanding credentials eventually sold to the somewhat mysterious businessmen Pan Sutong whose business career has had more peaks and valleys than Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.
Right here and now, Sutong- net worth US$6.8 billion according to Forbes- is at the top of his game despite shares in his various companies making $22 billion and then losing it all a few months ago, something dismissed by the billionaire as being “nothing unusual”. It takes humongous balls to Moonwalk away from that type of beating grabbing one’s crotch and squealing that it’s only paper money.
Pan Sutong is a fascinating beast and stories of how he guzzles some of the most expensive bottles of Margaux at his celebration dinners are legendary. No, unlike some Mainland Chinese businessmen we know, he doesn’t drink wine from one of the best cellars in the world with Coca-Cola and ice cubes.
As for Consort, what’s unusual is that the galloper, purchased with next year’s Hong Kong Derby in mind, has been bought and given to the John Moore stable when Sutong’s horses had, until now, all been stabled with the Richard Gibson yard, and, at one time, each one ridden by Douglas Whyte.
Whyte’s future with the owner looks bleak. In recent months, Christophe Soumillon has been flown in to ride his one-time regular rides including Gold-Fun and Giant Treasure. To confuse things even more, riding Consort for John Moore today is Zac Purton, back in the fold it appears after the acrimonious split between trainer and jockey when Military Attack moved stables. Also in the race is another of the owner’s runners- Obliterator- from the Gibson yard and to be ridden by Chad Schofield.
Whether Purton being on Consort has to do with Joao Moreira staying loyal to the John Size-trained Thewizardofoz, and waiting until the rumoured HK$20m import, and overnight 3 to 1 favourite for the race, is more acclimatised and tackles a longer trip than the 1400m it runs over today, is something that makes the picture more hazy- and even amusing.
When interviewed by Edward Sadler for the Racing To Win spectacular, and probed as to the chances of both horses, the Magic Man could barely contain his laughter. It was no wry smile when asked about his level of confidence. Hardly. His cup of chuckles practically runneth over. Perhaps he knew he can have his cake- and choice of rides- and eat it, too.
Personally, I would stick with Moreira’s choice of ride, and that of Whyte- Hero Look- for trainer Chris So, which ran a very good second at big odds at its first start. There is also Blizzard to consider if he’s got over the bleeding attack suffered at its last start. Today, the great French rider Gerald Mosse takes the ride for the first time from the suspended Karis Teetan.
Having Mosse back from a suspension along with Purton, Neil Callan, Chad Schofield and Brett Prebble will mean almost having a full-strength team, and it remains to be seen if this might result in a slowdown of the Moreira Runaway Express that has stormed away with a Baker’s Dozen of winners in just the last three race meetings.
If one were to look at the overnight odds of his rides for today, Moreira should close the year off with, at least, a treble. He’s the Magic Man and Super Freak, combined- a brilliant rider, who is also a very savvy PR and marketing man, and constantly building and strengthening his brand. Hell, even the new band at the Beer Garden has jumped on the bandwagon. It’s name: MORE-IRA.
Hong Kong racing might have needed a change from the total dominance by Douglas Whyte for thirteen consecutive years, but as life often teaches us, Be careful what you wish for.
Where Joao Moreira is different to Whyte is that even when he loses on a short-priced favourite- a rarity- local racing fans forgive him. It’s always someone else’s fault. Joao can do no wrong- and he rarely does. He plays to win. All the time. And he’s hugely likeable. Everybody might have loved Raymond. They now love Joao.
And though at the height of his career, with the support of the John Size stable, Douglas Whyte was a brilliantly successful jockey, where Joao Moreira differs is that here is one of the very few “businessmen-jockeys” around. He knows his worth, and has options ranging from riding in Japan, the U.S. or Europe. Forget Australia. But why disappear, and leave everything he has here- and pays only 15 percent tax on earnings? The Magic Man is no dummy.
When Group 1 winning rider extraordinaire Ryan Moore starts riding in Hong Kong next month for a short stint will we see a more level playing field? Yes and no. From a one horse race, it will be a two-horse race between the two best jockeys in the world, and a mutual admiration society.
The Moreira-Moore duopoly promises to be one helluva show- and perhaps even a reality series. It’s a marketing dream and finally something to breathe life into the moribund Jockey Challenge bet. What happens after Moore leaves is the question. But until then, sit back and enjoy the ride.
THE CHINESE ARE COMING! THE CHINESE ARE COMING…TO RANDWICK
There’s a new Chinese player making what appears to be all the right noises as they move towards creating a presence in racing in Oz- not just empty noises like some we know that have more than a hint of the dreaded “Bill Vlahos willies” about them- but with some substance.
In mid-January, for example, and in time to welcome in the Lunar New Year of The Monkey, the big-spending Kilin Racing Group, and said to be close friends with Sun International, the Macau-based company and owners of Eliza Park, has taken the initiative to spearhead and sponsor a China-Australia race day at Randwick. And those behind what is an innovative concept to bring more Chinese to the races in Oz have gone to great lengths to explain that this initiative has had nothing to do with the ATC. If the ATC has a role, it’s said to be the equivalent of a walk-on. Whatever.
The key is that, finally, someone is tapping into the large cash-rich Chinese community in NSW, introducing them to racing in Oz, and with the Kilin people reported to be laying out the red carpet for over one thousand of their special guests- from its new home base, Macau, Hong Kong and Mainland China.
The power wielded in Oz by these cash-rich Chinese racing groups will be a fascinating scenario to follow over the next few years with already more owners from this part of the world Down Under than many think. If all this Chinese presence is a good thing or a Trojan horse inside Pandora’s box only time will.
As for Kilin, with these new players already well-ensconced with the Lady GaiGai stables, and more and more new purchases heading that way, GaiTV will, of course, be covering the goings on at Randwick with Team Gai helping out by organising things for the January Gong Show, and doing what Gai does best: Never looking a gift horse in the mouth.
THE EMERALD: A GEM OF A PLACE FOR INFORMATION
As everyone knows, the most popular meeting place for many in Melbourne’s racing and footy fraternity is the bar at the Emerald Hotel in Clarendon Street. It’s been an institution, where many meet up for a beer- and the fabulous Emerald burgers, pizzas and T-bone steak- exchange mail, and, as the night progresses, the conversations become louder.
But in these cloak and dagger days of he-said-they-said, so many stories being thrown around, and the rumour mill gone crazy about everything from cheats and “easy runs” to high profile “illicit affairs”, smoke and mirrors companies, and choreographed headline news and setups, our mail suggests that Big Brother and their sisters find a good surveillance spot at the Emerald and film many of the conversations going on.
In this day and age of cold calls by bookmakers from Oz all the way to Hong Kong for the futile exercise of illegal transactions which means no one wins, plus Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Kim Dotcom, Ashley Madison, dodgy privacy policies when signing up with any site, firewalls that can be easily hacked, and all the open secrets on Twitter and Facebook, do any of us have privacy? Really? 2015 appears to be the new Orwellian 1984. And it’s unsettling.
MORE MAGIC TO COME, SAYS THE FAST TRACKER
A tough start to the day with the Magic Man set to become The Miracle Worker if he can get O’Socoole to win this race even if it’s at such short odds- all part of the Moreira Jambalaya. The galloper should place, but on a win line? No thanks.
Brett Prebble should take this out on Aztec Empire, a horse destined for better things. What’s surprising is just how muted the praise has been about what has been the renaissance of Brett Prebble, a Group 1 Melbourne Cup winning jockey who suddenly looked like being Yesterday’s Man until he turned his career around starting last season.
Despite losing his biggest support systems in the stables of David Hall and Caspar Fownes, Prebble has put in the hard yards, and won over some of the top local trainers, namely Chris So, Francis Lui, Me Tsui and Benno Yung with a few scraps thrown his way by the bigger stables- and for whom he has delivered.
The first leg of the Triple Trio, where there’s a jackpot that’s slightly over a million bucks. This hurdle should be easy to jump over with nuts intact by taking double bankers- London Town (1) and Glenealy Prize. The latter is a bit of a dour type that needs longer, but, at this is his only second start, he should either win or run the Quinella for Moreira.
A very open looking second leg of the Triple Trio with bottom weight going Good For You on top now that he’s finally drawn a decent barrier. Get over this hurdle in one piece and you should be looking at winning the Triple Trio.
Looks can be deceiving, and this looks like being a relatively easy last leg of the Triple Trio. But like chatting up a lady boy outside Amazonia and thinking you’ve hit the jackpot, excitement must be tempered by common sense- and great insight and foresight.
Again, Brett Prebble should be to the fore with New Asia Sunrise that came second to that flying machine called Fabulous One at its last start.
Having said this, NAS is a pretty small galloper, and that last run was okay without being exactly jaw-dropping. There’s this nagging feeling that the galloper might need a short break as he’s starting to look tired. Maybe he’s been reading some of the absolute bollocks tweeted by many in the racing twitterati.
Many of these tweets from illiterate twerps really makes horse racing look like a sport for desperadoes who shouldn’t be in it as they cannot afford to lose, and are under the delusion that jockeys can walk on water and constantly feed the forty thousand.
This looks like more of a race that Prebble can win aboard Diamond Dragon. But beware: These 1000m races down the Shatin straight can throw up the odd winner as horses in the money and usually drawn very helpful outside barriers can find themselves in traffic jams whereas the Red Seas open up for something not given any chance and Oscar-winning performances of fake joy at the winner’s circle.
So will the quality of the super-expensive UK purchase Consort see him win despite this race looking too short going on his overseas form? Most likely. I’ll be sticking with Thewizardofoz and don’t believe we have yet seen the best of this galloper trained by the best horseman in Hong Kong- John Size.
Race 2: Aztec Empire (3)
Race 11: Thewizardoz (4)
Race 6: Good For You (14)