By Hans Ebert
Happy Wednesday night was more like a celebration party after the success of HKIR week- a time to just chill and go with the flow. Many did at Adrenaline. We’d never seen anything like it before and really hope we have repeat performances. Bring entertainment to the races and it combines to create that field of dreams. Build it and they will come…
There’s the perception by many that horse racing is all about betting to win and starring the cast from some old Edward G Robinson gangster movie.
Those who criticise what they don’t understand really should make the time to see how much fun- and young- it can be when all the pieces fit. That night, which had an Eighties theme, it was only appropriate that legendary Irish rider Mick Kinane came up to the venue after the last race. There are riders and there are legends. Michael Kinane is a humble, down to earth legend- someone secure in his own skin.
A few present remembered some of his great winning rides in Hong Kong, some expected, others not. Whatever the case, here was one of the greats of the turf and great judge who made some in Hong Kong extremely happy when winning the 1993 Melbourne Cup on the Dermot Weld trained Vintage Crop, which opened at 80s, came in to 60s, then 45, 28, and still closed at the very juicy odds of 17s. Some things you just don’t forget.
Earlier that Happy Wednesday night, not surprisingly, with a full book of rides, Joao Moreira won the Jockey Challenge and rode a double, but the term “magic man” might need to take a break. Of course, the brilliance is still there, but they’re flashes of brilliance these days. Somehow, the wand is no longer as effective nor as dominant. It might need some new batteries.
If Hong Kong racing has a new “magic man”, it’s rookie trainer Frankie Lor.
As a jockey, Frankie Lor might have made “Rambo” WH Tse look stylish, but as a trainer, the former assistant to John Size has not just hit the ground running, he’s taken off into his own stratosphere and is currently leading the trainers premiership.
What’s going to be intriguing to watch over the next few months is the battle going for the trainers championship between Frankie and Johnny. It’s The Sorcerer and Apprentice stuff. Or Batman and Robin.
It’s another of those back stories that can be interesting marketing content- certainly more interesting than all the airtime given to those goofy composite bets that are so awkwardly simple even newbies don’t understand them and promotions on Facebook where grown ups are asked to guess the colours of a glowing disco ball.
Getting back to racing, with his incredible strike rate, every jockey wants the Lor on their side. What’s interesting is, apart from Joao Moreira and their bounty of combined successes, especially in Class 5 races, who the other riders are that the trainer turns to in order to deliver the goods.
Of course, Joao Moreira and Zac Purton, who’s riding at his very best and like a man possessed by the Venus Flytrap, have a buffet of choices between them when it comes to rides. But, as in the case of Moreira discarding Mr Stunning, even they get it wrong sometimes. Choice can be a dangerous game of thrones.
Ironically, all this choice has opened things up, not only to ride for Frankie Lor, but more opportunities for jockeys to ride for other trainers. Right up there in the In Demand Stakes are Derek Leung, Karis Teetan, Umberto Rispoli and Nash Rawiller, below.
These four riders can never ever be written off in any races and have breathed new life into the Jockey Challenge. As has been written here many times, Derek Leung has already been this season’s revelation. Every one of his rides is given every possible chance. He’s the new pinup boy of Hong Kong racing and deserves all the success that’s finally coming his way.
Same with The Mauritian Magician, Umberto Rispoli, and The Gnasher. In whatever bet you’re making, they must be included. Of course, leaving out Moreira and Purton is something done at one’s peril, but their rides often offer little value. Include them in exotic bets like Quartets, the Triple Trio, Quinella Place and Win all ups and the Six Up, just to be on the safe side, but that’s about it.
If following Hong Kong racing from Australia, much of this would be hard to fathom as these exotic bets are unavailable to those in the land down under. Plus, there’s a world of difference between how the racing fans in the two very different racing jurisdictions bet. Now is not the time to explain how and why.
Getting back to the Hong Kong jockey ranks, it would be good to see Brett Prebble being offered more winning opportunities. He has returned after a refresher break with a new attitude and is riding as well as anyone else. He’s a world class jockey and particularly effective in distance races. Let’s not forget that he has won the Melbourne Cup.
Though a lowly Class 5 event run over 1800 metres, it will be interesting to see his ride on Amritsaria (1) in the second race while he should be around the money in the next on Ambitious Speedy (3).
As for his one-time great rival Douglas Whyte, with thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Jockey Championships as part of his legacy, he really doesn’t need to go through the rigours of being fit enough to ride. He’s financially set for life. He keeps riding because he still can ride winners. These don’t come with the regularity as when he ruled the roost, but there are still winners from the limited number of rides that come his way these days. Where to next for Douglas Whyte?
From his flying trips down there, the Group successes, and his love for the city, his final hurrah could be in Perth. But with the new rules coming into effect in January naming the top 100 Group races in which Hong Kong based jockeys are allowed to compete overseas, this idea might have already been nixed.
As for today’s card, even with a couple of all-weather races to confuse everyone, there are some good races very much worth looking at seriously with the future in mind- the first race has six first starters and could result in a big Quartet result- and taking a couple of Six Ups.
Though in the last race Pingwu Spark (2) will probably start favourite with also considerable backing for the John Moore first starter and 2018 Derby hopeful Good Standing (4), which looks like it might need more time, include the Tony Cruz trained Doctor Geoff (6) with Matty Chadwick aboard.
Chadwick is making the most of the rides that come his way. And now that he’s got his mojo back after an injury and all the drama behind the Pakistan Star saga, he’s someone who’s extremely dangerous to leave out.
The Poon Train aka Matthew Poon and fellow apprentice Dylan Mo with their weight allowances might be more in demand, but it’s always quality not quantity. So when Matty Chadwick gets on a quality galloper like Doctor Geoff who ran an impressive second at his recent first start here and purchased with next year’s Hong Kong Derby in mind, he can’t be dismissed lightly.
He also has a chance to be in the money at big odds to fill a place spot in the earlier race when he partners Endearing (12) for Michael Freedman in the last of three all-weather race where one can always expect the unexpected despite Pick Number One (11) being the raging favourite.
Going by the overnight odds and what the tipsters say, it looks to be a day where favourites will be to the fore. But, as what happened at Caulfield yesterday when some couldn’t see Vinland being beaten and put their reputations on the line by declaring it the most certain of certainties, don’t follow leaders, watch your parking meters and don’t believe everything you read or hear. Nothing ever goes according to script, especially in the topsy turvy world of horse racing.
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