By Hans Ebert
(@hanseberthk / @racingb_tch)

It’s all about timing. And Racingbitch aka RB was launched during the very early days of the digital age- and the very early hours of a long night out at the legendary Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong with two former jockeys. The first “issue” named The 20 Most Overrated Jockeys…and it’s been downhill from there. This was the time when few knew the difference between a blog and a flog, WordPress from watercress, and everything it took to launch a workable website- the importance of content, and with the need for a backend as strong as that of J Lo. RB was anonymous, irreverent, outspoken and with an indie spirit. It was beholden to no one. It still is.

These days, where we have seen the explosion of social media, and consumers having access to everything what they want for free when they want and how they want, reading blogs, and visiting websites are almost a chore unless these have some exclusivity to them- competitions with exclusive prizes, giveaways and are merchandise-driven. These sites accompanied by their social media content are also mainly relevant to fans of big name music artists, and the growing number of Indie artists like Melbourne’s incredible Tash Sultana, who offer an alternative to slick, predictable Top 40 Pop.

Websites for horse racing? They serve their purpose, but there’s always the feeling that even though these are for the hardcore racing professional, it’s 2017, they’ve seen what else is out there, and want something more simple, more easier to navigate through, easier to download content etc etc. Blogs, and other social mediums talking about horse racing? How many will purposely seek these out if not fans of the sport- globally? Let’s get real here. Still, if trying to make horse racing a mainstream sport, it’s about following the KISS Theory- Keep It Simple, Stupid- catering to today’s DIY world and seeing what develops. This is different, of course, to Keep It Simple And Stupid, which is what often happens. Right, Bernard?

This DIY world is being embraced by the smart industries. They are always tracking what comes out of them- the talent, the content and, most importantly, through this, the consumer demands. Isn’t this how the original architects of what became social media realised where they should be heading? By truly understanding what their peers wanted? THIS really was the start of peer-to-peer business, but in those early days, more of a coming together of a new generation with the outsiders locked out. The quest for funding came later. But it was hardly a quest.

Those then-young entrepreneurs like Daniel Ek were in the driver’s seat. People like Hong Kong’s richest man- Li Ka-shing- had those around him with the foresight to have him invest in, first, Facebook, and then Spotify. They knew what was waiting ahead. Others were caught napping and are now trying to play catchup. Followers will never be leaders.

As far as horse racing is concerned, no matter what some think, compared to the music and entertainment, fashion, and sports entertainment industries, its use of social media remains stunted. The content is predictable- predictably boring, restricted largely to Twitter, and led by the small group of racing’s usual suspects. Except for Winx, none of it is exactly “sexy”.

Another thing: More and more, once familiar names in racing on Twitter have allowed their accounts to flounder. It’s probably not working for them. Maybe the initial thrill left with BB King? Maybe there are other priorities? Where’s the lovely Francesca Cumani these days? Even whoever is running Lady GaiGai’s Twitter account seems to have turned it into some pedestrian exercise in Public Relations that has seen former followers drop off. It’s puffy #fakenews.

A few weeks ago, Peter V’landys, CEO and visionary extraordinaire of Racing New South Wales, and The Man Who Would Be King, took one more brave step for mankind while scaling Everest with Neil Diamond playing on his headphones, and rode on his white steed into racing’s Twitterverse. And when he did, all was still in the valley. He tweets, and the world is supposed to listen. Sorry, but we’re starting to laugh.

That’s what happens when living in a bubble with disciples kissing the hem of the emperor’s new robes while nattering about “good vibes”. Just like when he talks absolute bollocks, and no one has the balls to take him to task. Who can blame him for continuing to waffle on and be in love with the sound of his own voice when there’s no one to say, “Rein it in, Pete, you’re starting to sound like that doofus in the White House”?

Peter V’landys is hardly a stupid man. He’s a clever opportunist. There’s nothing wrong with that. This clear path to do as he pleases is why he’s where he is. At the top of the heap- in his very own teepee on Mount Everest. It’s also why he’s able to take horse racing in Australia to the level of sophistication of a Ninetendo game with the commercial for his beloved Everest “concept” and no one says, “What a loada Sherpas.” But, hey, if you can get away with it, even more power to you, Bro. You da man.

Away from “Lord Petrus”, the mobile world, and making this a creative and relevant medium, still remains unchartered waters for the world of horse racing. It’s the future, and it’s where RB is heading. What happens once we get there? Well, often, the journey is more fun than reaching the destination. It’s about innovation and motivation.

Horse racing is hardly a magnet for creative thinkers, but we have managed to put together a team comprising talent from other industries that see the potential for the sport to be more than what it is, especially in Asia, Japan and the Greater China region led, of course, by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. “Lord Petrus” just suffered from immediate shrinkage.

Having originally modelled ourselves after the UK’s outspoken online newsletter Popbitch with its exposés on a number of the entertainment world’s sacred cows, and after one too many years of writing about the same old same old, and now very much older names in, especially, Australia’s stateless and dysfunctional horse racing three ring circus, this is something we’ll leave to others. There’s nothing in it for us- not even the fun of taking le pissoir out of those legends in their own lunchtime that it once was. Maybe we’ve finally come to our dollars and senses.

When writing for free, and having always refused to accept advertising, where’s the return on one’s time and investment? There is none. There’s nothing to show for banging away for a handful of people who enjoy someone else fight their battles, and want to see more “whacks” for free. There’s a word for people like these.

Far more important for RB is to continue to evolve our product into something bigger than what it is by using the mobile world like it’s not been used before by the racing industry. This means creating and owning original content, offering platforms for user-generated content, ‘live’ streaming, launching competition-driven promotional and marketing strategies relevant to the sport, and a much greater focus on the instant delivery of information and news. No corporate piffle and waffle allowed.

Add to this, providing relevant content during those twentysomething minutes between races so those can participate more in the sport.

We’ll continue to work on evolving the Happy Wednesday brand for the HKJC, and are happy to show former trainer Peter “Good Vibes” Moody, who’s lamenting the lack of “good vibes”, that “good vibes” are alive and well every Wednesday night at Happy Valley Racecourse.

We’ll also continue to do the best we can to evolve other aspects of racing that need to be enhanced until we hear the Fat Lady clearing her throat signalling that we’re no longer inspired or motivated to be in the sport and our interests lie elsewhere. Like on a beach in Sri Lanka being fed mangoes by Scandinavian Go Go girls.

We’ll do all this while wishing “groundbreaking initiatives” like Everest, the world’s richest horse race for slots, along with the Humpty Dumpty futures of Racing Victoria, Tabcorp, Crownbet, and some of the greatest minds in horse racing, pictured below, only the very best.

Have whatever is happening- or being brushed under the carpet by these game changers to the sport- reported by those being paid to cover all this riveting news. It’s no longer of interest to us. We’re bored, and drained by the “smallness” of it all.

Far more important is to look at The New- what perhaps master illusionist David Blaine, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and a new breed of sponsors can bring to the sport along with creating and owning new content and finding new ways to interest that untapped market out there to participate.

But first, horse racing must be made to look (and sound) exciting. The usual suspects in all areas of the sport are hardly the most creative, multi dimensional and charismatic of people. Perhaps this is why they’re in horse racing? Ever read their tweets and embarrassing attempts at self-promotion? Must we name and shame them? Really?

In the music industry, we refer to these people as “dweebs”, and relegate them to the back of the room where they do whatever it is that they pretend to do. We keep them away from “the lobby” and artists. In horse racing, they’re front and centre. It’s not a good look to those on the outside looking in.

We’ll also leave producing more programming comprising more tipster panels comprising wobble heads guaranteed to make those new to the sport leave after seeing their financial investments quickly bite the dust to others.

The RB blog will still be published, but only when there’s something relevant to say. Like when it’s announced that United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has been named to lead Racing Victoria out of the wilderness with Sean Spicer as his Director Of Communications.

That and when the racing club finally reveals that everything that has been happening for almost three years is part of a mini series that’s a combination of racing’s answer to Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

It’s got it all- cheats, lies, sex, confusion, the blind leading the blind into the abyss of nothingness, golden handshakes, greed, corruption, bullying, incompetence, Our Gal Sal, golf, drive-by shootings, fear and loathing, more golden handshakes, goofiness, carpets, vacuum cleaners, intellectual midgets, The Plodder, The Yes People, The Don’t Know People, more confusion, bluster, more U-turns than in The Fast And The Furious, and everything in between.

And no, RB is no longer here to take potshots at people no matter how much they might need to be taken to task and brought down to earth. Those in power have made their money, they’ll continue to make money, and good luck to them. The cons, the rorts and false bravado and inept management have somehow been allowed- ALLOWED, people- to flourish in a racing jurisdiction that’s limited at best. We’re being kind. And let’s get real again: $1m to lead Fawlty Towers? Please. Who will be dumb enough to inherit the wind- and all the flatulence? Speaking of gas, not even Hong Kong racing’s Mr Bubbles will see this as a giant career opportunity.

Away from this House Of Cards, listening recently to part of an interview with Richard Burt, RWWA Chief Executive, below, and judging by his jacket, seemingly, a huge fan of Krystle Carrington, the most important takeout was that wagering in Western Australia was “flat”. At least the man doesn’t speak with forked tongue, Kemo Sabay. Flat is a problem, Richard.

Pity that racing in WA is going nowhere as there have been some very good new initiatives- really original initiatives and not copycat ideas- by, for example, the team behind WA Racing’s Tabtouch product.

If you haven’t already- and the odds are that many haven’t as racing in WA remains irrelevant to many outside of the state- visit Tabtouch and look at the Giddy-Up odds idea. Listen to the intelligent discussions, the radio commercials that refuse to be listless radio commercials for dead people, and the brave idea of giving jockey Ryan Hill aka The Boy Hill, below, his own platform on radio.

Here’s the problem other than the wagering landscape being “flat”. Though there’s no time difference between WA, Hong Kong and Singapore, and there’s much that can be done as far as promotions are concerned, what’s the point? What’s the point when “It’s the economy stupid”, and there’s no financial plus side for the HKJC? And without the HKJC coming to the party, it’s just some nonsensical birdie num num droppings.

As for those who think RB is just a Stevie Wonder mouth organ and mouthpiece for the HKJC, go back to the future and read the relentless criticism of what started out as “Sassy Wednesday” before sanity prevailed and this evolved into the successful Happy Wednesday brand. Like the ad below with the empty grandstand, a four horse race and some suss looking ladies? Jeez, those “Sassy” Wednesdays sure attracted a different group of customers than a Happy Wednesday does today.

Read about the question marks hanging over some of the dubious hires, some of the race calling, and the point of producing content that has no relevance, no winners, and only serves as a reminder of Charlie’s Angels and a trip back in time to the era of Big Hair.

The HKJC does very many things extremely well, but no one and nothing is bulletproof. What the racing club that’s more than a racing club has is strong leadership and a very focused view of the future. It’s not all talk and then, more empty talk. Would we work with any other company or organisation IF continuing to be involved in horse racing? No. What’s the point? We work with those we respect and who respect us. If we can’t work with and learn from the best, what’s the point? Mediocrity is hardly a great magnet.

This entry was posted in Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, Peter V'landys, The horse racing industry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Shane says:

    “everything what they want for free when they want and how they want”? I’m going to hope this was a brain fade.

  2. ben speed says:

    WA is trying hard but they won’t play ball with Betfair. Highest takeout by BF at 8%. I avoid them for this reason although I live in W.A.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s