Sure, the focus is first and foremost on the racing and seeing and finding the winners. But after that last race has been run and many will gather at the Champagne Bar for the annual post-mortem about who did what and who did it better before heading out for dinner, it’s the back stories one will remember- those personal memories.
For myself, there’ll be the meandering conversations that finally led somewhere. Add to that Joao Moreira showing the racing world that the magic hasn’t gone poof by riding the first three winners at Happy Valley on International Jockeys’ Championship night. Next to me that night, wife Taciana and her friends danced their asses off to Latino rhythms at Adrenaline.
There was Jennifer Palor and her band’s incredible version of “In The Air Tonight” at the Beer Garden and the professionalism of those twelve models who worked for hours as HKIJC ambassadresses in high heels with no complaints. Especially Dayanne from Brazil.
The highlight, at least so far, has been the openness and refreshing lack of pretentiousness from Christine Bowman and the top down to earth bloke, pictured below, who was lucky enough to snag her.
HKIR week is an international showcase for racing in Hong Kong and the city that hosts this event every December like some early Christmas present. It’s a week that offers everyone a memorable mental Instagram of what makes Hong Kong, well, Hong Kong and how all this is what makes the sport here take on a very special vibe that can never be duplicated anywhere else.
Horse racing, Hong Kong style, is a cultural thing along with having a very different attitude about how one looks at the sport. Perhaps the fact that many here were not born on farms and around horses gives them a totally different way of looking at horse racing- not, as has been described by being “gambling mad Asians”- but a new generation of smart, inquisitive overseas educated racing fans quickly learning how the game is played, and on their terms.
Let’s not forget that this is a DIY world where those born into an age with all the technological breakthroughs and really know their way around the online world and don’t need to pretend that they do, absorb what they want to absorb and throw out the clutter. Who has time for clutter of any kind?
This leads to seeing a group of Hong Kong-based so-called “racing personalities” earlier this week and receiving a rather odd Diva Moment as they wafted out of the five star bar on the wings of whatever la la song was playing in their heads.
A first time visitor sitting with me commented, “What’s their problem?” “Probably my cologne”, I answered to break the somewhat awkward mood. It was nothing unusual. Write enough about those in Hong Kong racing leading a “rock star lifestyle” and the gullible believe they’re Posh and Becks and the Kardashians, combined. Reality goes out the window.
My friend just shook her head. “That’s pathetic. Those lucky enough to become part of Hong Kong racing should be giving thanks and burning joss for this opportunity everyday they’re here. Racing twice a week, and a lifestyle they’d never have back home and personal tax of around 16.5 percent- max? Where else in the world are they going to get all this?”
It’s a question asked often by those who see this type of behaviour self-promoted on social media and just laugh it off as a funnier version of Absolutely Fabulous.
Thankfully, Christine Bowman showed up with her Irish cheeriness to brighten up the darkness. The down to earth bloke who snagged her followed- Christine’s “little cucumber”- and was his usual engaging self. Likability goes a long way in life. No one has time for anyone with their heads up their netherworld. It’s dark up there.
Sometimes, even us Hong Kong Belongers forget and take for granted this city we call home and how much it has given us. We need others to remind us how far this once barren rock has come along and those men of vision who wrote the new chapter in Hong Kong racing.
Today, for many, and for around four hours, it’s about the Group 1 racing at Sha Tin. What’s not seen is everything that has gone into making this week happen and for it to be the success it will undoubtedly be with new records being announced when it comes to turnover and attendance. That’s fine. It’s another win for the HKJC and Hong Kong.
Beyond this, however, there’s much more- like next week when it’s business as usual and back to evolving the future and where and how horse racing in Hong Kong will get there…and who will be part of the Long March forward.
As for winners today? The only sure winner will be the HKJC and Hong Kong. That’s good enough for me.
By Hans Ebert
#HKIR #HKracing #hughbowman #christinebowman #joaomoreira #zacpurton #hongkong