DAVID FERRARIS: BACK WITH A VENGEANCE!

By Hans Ebert

It’s been said enough of times: Horse racing can be an unforgiving sport and loaded from all sides with people with very short memories. One is only as good as their last win and can go from hero to zero within in the blink of an eye. Gone in a flash are all those credits on one’s curriculum vitae. Winning thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Jockey Premierships can be thrown out with yesterday’s newspapers. If The Postman doesn’t deliver for a couple of race meetings he’s “not trying”. If a trainer isn’t leading in winners on a regular basis, “loyal” owners leave for greener pastures, and the scouting party returns with no wampum beads, Tonto.

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This leads to what could be the Renaissance of Hong Kong-based South African trainer David Ferraris aka “Darth”, something coined here with good humour for his somewhat grumpy moods. But, we like him, and having been friends for a long time, who can blame him for being grumpy? By the way, the name of “Darth’s” son? Luke.

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David, son of the legendary South African trainer Ormond Ferraris, arrived in Hong Kong in 2003 after a career in his home country where he won numerous Group 1 races in Johannesburg and Capetown with the highlights begin his July Cup wins with Super Quality, ridden by the great Michael Roberts, and the Anthony Delpech-ridden Classic Gate, below, though those who follow racing in South Africa might remember two of his other stable stars- Ashtontown, and the filly Lady Of Cadiz.

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THE MAN THAT IS WINFRIED ENGELBRECHT-BRESGES

By Hans Ebert

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Meet Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges- not the Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges everyone can read about on the Hong Kong Jockey Club website, Google, or through Wikipedia, but more about the man behind the man who has the very challenging role of being CEO of the most successful racing club in the world. And without sounding like some fawning sycophant, what makes him tick. What makes him able to juggle more than a few balls in the air, and make multi-tasking not come across as being a chore.To paraphrase the great poetess Donna Summer, he works hard for the money, he works hard for the honey, and it’s always to make things just right.

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Being the CEO of the HKJC is no stroll in the park. As has been written here many times, the Club is more than a racing club. Much more. It’s a multi-headed beast with tentacles reaching far and wide. It’s not just part of Hong Kong, but, through its Charities Trust, the HKJC has created much of Hong Kong and continues to fund and donate to projects that enrich the lives of many in this city. It’s something, I keep feeling has to keep being emphasised. Over and over again. People have short memories. The HKJC is more than a racing club. It’s more than a racing club.

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WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO GO IN HONG KONG: OUR GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF 2016 LONGINES #HKIR WEEK (PART 6)

If music be the food of life, then play on. But in Hong Kong, the question is when? And if visiting this city, the bigger question is where? Sure, almost every hotel has a resident singer for their bars and lounges. But too often, this can be a total distraction where you can’t hear yourself think, and so resort to screaming to those around you while also trying to block out some extremely mediocre warbling from “talent” just damn lucky to have agents able to pull the wool over the eyes and ears of tone deaf hotel executives and book their artists for what seems like an eternity.

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Mr Hives at the Crown Metropole have some excellent singers backed by very good guitarists using only a loop pedal singing covers, but making these their own- singers like a guy I caught one evening at the venue named Emerson.

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Emerson is someone who needs a damn good agent who can get him to Hong Kong ASAP, or anywhere else, except wasting his time gigging in Melbourne.

As for Hong Kong hotels, they need to wise up and rid themselves of the booking agents they’ve been using for decades. Most are clueless about today’s customers. It’s why many hotel lounges in Hong Kong have such dated and unoriginal “talent”. Singing covers of the earliest hits of Norah Jones adds to that creaky and aged feeling. For customers, it’s not a good feeling. Instead of “Come Away With Me”, it’s more a case of, “We’ve Gotta Get Outta This Place”.

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FEEL FREE TO ADD TO OUR #HKIR TOP OF THE POPS

By Hans Ebert

* My Way: Calvin Harris

* We Are The Champions: Queen

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2 We Will Rock You: Queen


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WORTH REVISITING AS #HKIR NEARS: THE #HKIR DIARIES

Regrets, there’ve been a few when it comes to “The Sport Of Kings”, but what remains the highlight- at least to date- was when a group of us chipped in HK$500 each, and won the Triple Trio for the first time- getting the first three horses in any order in races 4,5 and 6. This was on a Sunday at Shatin many years ago during Hong Kong International Week when one of the other lucky winners in the group was John Didham, the one-time Magic Man of Macau racing, and winner of five jockey premierships over there, pictured below with another former rider from those glory days- David Taggart.

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With us that memorable afternoon as the orders for more of Monsieur Dom Perignon came from all sides of the table, and we were suddenly joined by new friends we had never met before who were ordering their own wines- on our tab, of course, was a new jockey to Macau known only to John at that time named Sammy Hyland.

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The problem was that Sammy had the winning ticket, but was nowhere to be found. His phone was off and we wondered if he’d got mugged, got lost, or had done a Usain Bolt. So, while (former jockey) Peter Leyshan proudly showed us a new book on Shatin Racecourse and the two pages devoted to his double on the first day the track opened to the public, we nodded politely, but our thoughts were elsewhere: the whereabouts of Sammy Hyland with our winning ticket.

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WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO GO IN HONG KONG: OUR GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF 2016 LONGINES #HKIR WEEK (PART 5)

Some like it hot, some like it hotter, and some years ago, the most popular restaurant for spicy Sichuan cuisine was the Red Pepper in Causeway Bay.

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It was certainly a favourite with those over for the International Races as the reviews were good- hot reviews- and with many staying at the Grand Hyatt, the restaurant was just a convenient ten minute walk away from the hotel. It still is.

Though the Red Pepper remains a favourite, especially with tourists and newcomers to Hong Kong, a plethora of Sichuan restaurants have opened since. Sadly, most are more of the same, which is why we always settle for Manchu China, formerly Bistro Manchu, and mentioned here several times before. So why stop now…

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Though the cuisine is Manchurian, there’s a distinct Sichuan flavour to the dishes. Just ask Tommy, the flamboyant and absolutely candid Manager, to tell you what’s REALLY good and let the chef know that you’re fearless when it comes to attacking spicy food.

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WILL CASPAR FOWNES PROVE TO BE THE KING MAKER ON DECEMBER 7 AT HAPPY VALLEY #HKIR

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

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While being crowned King Of The Valley on December 7 at Happy Valley at the end of the Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Competition looks skewed towards the home team comprising Joao Moreira and Zac Purton, who definitely know how to ride the idiosyncratic track, the Joker in the pack is trainer Caspar Fownes.

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If anyone wishes to talk about the longtime “King Of The Valley”, it’s The Casbah. How it’s happened remains a mystery, but for many years now, this trainer’s runners have ruled Happy Valley. Sure, as he’s quick to point out, he’s no one trick pony, and his record of wins at Shatin are almost on equal footing with his successes on the tight city track- really?- but when local racing fans look at any Happy Valley race card, one of the first things they do is to look at the rides of Moreira and the runners sent out by The Casbah. And if Moreira is on a Fownes horse racing in Class 5, well, it’s Fill Up Time at the old chuck wagon.

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WORTH REVISITING AS #HKIR NEARS: TONY CRUZ: THE BRUCE LEE OF HONG KONG RACING

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

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When John Hardie wrote that “Tony Cruz Is Not The Greatest Thing Since Fried Rice”, and how the then-young Champion jockey of Hong Kong had an apparent penchant for “fast cars, fast women and the fast life”, it caused more ripples than the city’s Fragrant Harbour had seen since rocked and rolled by the worst typhoon.

Hardie was a peculiar man- a surly Australian racing journalist who was angry with the world, and very obviously, a racist, who worked for the STAR newspaper in Hong Kong.

He almost seemed the hired PR man for fellow Aussies George Moore, and his jockey son Gary Moore, Tony Cruz’s main rival in the jockey ranks, but a good friend off the track, both being kids who were tasting the high life and champagne supernova of success at a very young age.

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WORTH REVISITING AS #HKIR NEARS: SILENT WITNESS: LIVING LEGEND

By Hans Ebert

“Have you seen the size of his nostrils? I remember (trainer) Tony Millard’s father telling me that you can tell a good horse by the size of their nostrils. It gives them that extra oxygen, and, man, he’s got huge nostrils.”

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Felix Coetzee is talking about Silent Witness, the champion Hong Kong sprinter in 2003, 2004, 2005, and Time Magazine’s 100 Most Interesting People Of 2004 who the great South African rider partnered for every one of his seventeen wins including taking out The Japan Sprint Stakes in 2005.

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“The Cat” had just been shown a picture of his old mate, now at the wonderful Living Legends equine retirement home, and words are hard to find to describe just how much this horse means to Coetzee, a true horseman and the most inquisitive person I know when it comes to understanding the psychology of our equine friends and how to get the most of the young Hong Kong apprentices he’s mentoring these days.

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But talk to “The Cat” and the conversation can’t help but get back to the Tony Cruz-trained and Archie and Betty Da Silva owned Silent Witness, the magic and miracle horse that shone a positive light on Hong Kong when the city was under the very dark cloud of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis.

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WORTH REVISITING AS #HKIR NEARS: LONGINES #HKIR: MADE IN HONG KONG AND PRIDE IN OWNERSHIP

By Hans Ebert

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It’s been part of Hong Kong since what were humble beginnings starting with the annual Invitational Races between Singapore and Hong Kong and when the Lion City’s Colonial Chief, trained by the legend that was Ivan Allan and ridden by Tony Cruz was the star of the show. This was in 1989.

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But this had to evolve into something bigger and better. It did when then-Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the late Alan Li, gave an idea by Executive Director of Racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges “a little nudge” and the green light. The idea was to make racing in Hong Kong more international- and also convince many local owners to be part of this movement towards quality and not quantity when it came to the purchase of equine talent. It created a domino effect. It also created one of the very few Made In Hong Kong products and what is known today as the Longines-sponsored Hong Kong International Races (HKIR)

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Li, a passionate horse racing man and “Chinoise Francophile”, who understood the wants and needs of the well-travelled racing community and possessed one of the best roller decks containing a Who’s Who of the sport in France, and Engelbrecht-Bresges, now CEO of the HKJC, wanted to see racing in this city become the centre- the magnet- that brings the world of racing together. It was about moving the chess pieces from being invitational races where the foreign raiders came, plundered and left to the introduction of international races with bigger prize money, better quality horsepower purchased by local owners and which created a much more level playing field that, simply put, raised the standard of racing in Hong Kong.

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