By Keyser Soze
RACING’S “SEIZE THE DAY” OPPORTUNITY
Call it whatever you like – a red letter day, a defining moment, an opportunity of opportunities, let your imagination run riot with descriptions, but last Saturday’s racing in both Sydney and Melbourne is a day Australian racing cannot choose to escape from or ignore. It would do so at its peril.
If one X-factor wasn’t enough, last Saturday produced two – while the Magic Man Joao Moreira weaved his God-given magical talent at Caulfield on a beautiful sunny afternoon, up north, the amazing talent that is Winx brushed aside the gloom and incessant rainfall at a sodden Randwick and kept her record breaking bandwagon rolling with her seventeenth consecutive win.
In life in general, and particularly in sport, opportunities don’t come knocking more than once. Blink and they’re gone. Forever. For racing, this is a “lifetime moment”, one which cannot be allowed to go begging. It must “seize the day”, and, over the next six weeks or so during the Sydney and Melbourne Autumn carnivals when the Magic Man and Winx are live and strutting their stuff on Racing’s big stage at Randwick, Rosehill and Flemington, maximize the enticing marketing opportunities which are banging with a loudness that is deafening on the front door of racing.
Joao, the Magic Man, and Winx, the Wonder from Down Under, are to racing what Ronaldo is to soccer, what Rod Laver was to tennis, and the “Tiger” was to golf. Joao Moreira is the most marketable asset, which racing has been gifted with in modern times. The world of racing is in a fortunate place with riding talent in both hemispheres and in the many prime global jurisdictions. And if his peers are to be taken at their word, and they should, then Joao Moreira is, to use racing lingo, lengths ahead of the rest. His rivals are in awe of him. So are Trainers and Owners. They queue up to book him to ride their horses.
Horses, they all say, “go for him”. He’s got what is described as “that magic touch”. And what about the punters and racing fans? There is a strong and growing sense of adulation about Joao Moreira. They vote with their feet on the racetracks in Hong Kong where it is rare for one of his rides on the eight or ten race card to not start the public elect. The sense of adulation could just be contagious, with the Australian racing community quickly embracing the Magic Man and his rare talent in one of the most dangerous sports in the world.
From the moment Joao Moreira entered Caulfield racecourse last Saturday, there was a buzz. Yes, it was Blue Diamond Race day, one of Melbourne’s major Autumn carnival race days, but there was a sniff of anticipation watching the Magic Man sign autographs for the fans when he arrived at the track. Jockeys being sought out by fans seeking autographs? And then when the race day began, the ducks started to line up. A couple of Moreira rides for placings and then the first of a black type double – Savanna Amour for an old mate John Meagher for whom he rode in Singapore, and then one of the rides of the day – Sheidel for the Hayes family training partnership in the Group One Oakleigh Plate, one of the day’s features.
But what sets the Magic Man apart from many others in racing is his natural and instant warmth which he exudes both one on one and from afar. There is a natural humility deeply steeped in his roots and his upbringing in his native Brazil. The tough environment growing up has shaped Joao Moreira. The competitive streak is there for all to see, but a defining feature of his success, his rise to fame and his status of invincibility and as a champion in his sport, has been his admirable in-grained ability to take his rolling success in his stride. Success has not changed the man. If anything, he has become a role model for how success and humility can co-exist harmoniously.
Throughout his magnificent career to date, Moreira has demonstrated that he can ride tracks anywhere in the world. He can ride horses of a different quality over all distances at the highest and lowest levels of competition with the same degree of success.
He has broken every significant riding record in one of the toughest and most competitive racing jurisdictions in the world – Hong Kong, where the riding ranks are close to the best in the world.
Joao Moreira’s persona and likeability makes him a natural fit as the face of horse racing. For racing, he is a marketers dream. But for racing he can and should be much, much more. Arguably, unlike any living champion sports person across any other sport, the Joao Moreira story could be the role model for everything that our troubled world and society is craving for. It’s a story that goes far beyond the narrow confines of racing. It’s has so much to gain by sharing the Joao Moreira story with the community at large. It can demonstrate that racing is much more than the “punt”.
Put the world’s champion racehorse Winx together with Moreira and horse racing has a unique and unbeatable combination which no other sport can offer.
Just in case, you didn’t know, there’s a song written about the “Magic Man”. It’s called Samba de Moreira. Here it is. Enjoy.
AMANDA ELLIOTT: A FIRST FOR WOMEN IN SPORT
To our knowledge, Amanda Elliott is the first woman to be appointed to the Chair of a major Australian sporting club- the VRC. For racing, it’s a wonderful story, and one which the racing industry can feel justifiably proud of. It’s a story which should and must be shouted out from the highest rooftops. And that should be done by Victoria’s governing body, Racing Victoria. But apart from a reported congratulatory message, there’s been precious little else.
Australian Racing needs all the help it can get in every single aspect of its operations, and fundamentally to promote its brand which has taken one hit after another in recent times.
Amanda Elliott’s appointment sends a clear message not just to the racing and sporting communities, but to the wider Australian population that racing does not gender discriminate. That it is a mature sport and business that actively respects and believes in gender equality.
Unlike many other sports, racing left it’s “macho” image back in the last century. It is one of Racing’s best kept secrets. The difference is that many of the mainstream sports go to great and extreme lengths to message any milestones by women in their sporting environments. And these sports are able to get their messaging across successfully through their sport specific media pack in the mainstream media.
Racing struggles and it is an important point of difference. None other than that racing media colossus- News Limited’s Matt Stewart, pictured below- took to the keyboard soon after Amanda Elliott’s appointment to opine that: “In administration, racing had long been a boys’ club. The women joined their husbands for lunch on race day but were rarely present around the boardroom table. Women have made significant inroads, but by society’s standards the sport of kings has always been a few lengths off the pace”.
Wrong. Was it any different with the AFL, the NRL, Soccer or Cricket? Some of these popular mainstream sports are still hardly gender equal. Yes, many have been brought to the harsh reality of the modern era, dragging and screaming, and been forced to appoint “token” females to their Boards for purposes of “gender equality”. But to even infer that racing being the last train to leave the station is completely incorrect.
Stewart should look inside his own glasshouse which employs him, and perhaps. let us all know why the Herald-Sun does not have a female racing journalist in its racing media pack, like, for instance, their team of football journalists?
He is also way off the mark describing the VRC as being regarded as “starchy and unchanging as other clubs such as the youthful Melbourne Racing Club and the energetic Moonee Valley Racing Club, which have innovated”. The VRC has always been on the receiving end of Australia’s infamous “tall poppy syndrome”. Yet its rap sheet shows otherwise.
Where would Australian and Victorian racing be without the Spring Racing Carnival, which has as its centrepiece the world famous Melbourne Cup Carnival? And where would racing also be without the internationalization of the Melbourne Cup, which has given Australian racing a footprint on the world stage, and with it hard earned respect globally? And let’s not forget Super Saturday and the Gourmet Food and Wine Trail on the Flemington lawns next weekend.
Perhaps Stewart should also delve into his newspaper archives and track down a pix of Jean Shrimpton in her famous and controversial “mini-skirt”. No, it was not taken at an AFL or NRL game or at a cricket or soccer match. It was taken at Flemington. And at the races.
Further, the Melbourne Cup carnival is universally recognized as the one single event which broke the demographic barrier and exposed racing to a younger generation, the significance of which, one suspects, Matt Stewart has difficulty in either comprehending or understanding a generation, which unlike Matt Stewart, is not “starchy and unchanging”, whatever the hell that means, and doesn’t have us yelling, “Piiiiiiiigs in spaaaaaaaace!”