THE BALLAD OF RACING IN VICTORIA (WITH APOLOGIES TO BOB DYLAN)

BACK WITH EXTRA BITE (AND MORE RELISH)

THE BALLAD 0

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THE BALLAD 1

Queen Victoria is heavy with the head that wears the crown
Everything looks to be heading South and down
Has the race been run but has anybody won?
Everybody trying to be Australia’s very own racing Don.

THE BALLAD 2

The Moody Blues continue in all its many guises
Every bloody day there are some new surprises
Who can win when they’re plotting for everyone to fall
And Shania stands there waiting to be the belle of the ball.

THE BALLAD 3

The Plodder keeps waffling on and on
But no one’s listening ‘cos they’ve all packed up and gone
He’s waiting for his fairy godmother
To dig him outta another big hole
But luck’s running out for this mutha
Cos feeding the media is that very big mole.

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FROM OUR VAULTS AND STILL RELEVANT: LOOKING BACK AND AHEAD WITH IRISH BLAZING GUN NEIL CALLAN…

REVISITING 1

NEIL CALLAN: BLAZING A TRAIL UNDER THE RADAR

BLAZING A TRAIL 1

“Didn’t they say the same thing about Basil Marcus?” Well-known barrister, larger-than-life character and horse owner Kevin Egan, who has seen all sides of horse racing in Hong Kong over very many years- the good, the bad, the ugly and the fugly- was making a point over lunch about the riding style of Irish jockey Neil Callan- and style versus substance.

BLAZING A TRAIL 2b

Perhaps not the prettiest jockey in the world to watch, Callan does what his backers want: He gets his horses first past the post. Sitting pretty doesn’t necessarily mean riding winners, something not lost on Big Kev, who compared Callan’s style, or lack of it, to the constantly-pumping, push, push action of Basil Marcus, the South African jockey who ruled the roost here for many years before Whyte Lightning struck and kept striking for thirteen consecutive years.

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YESTERDAY AT SHATIN, TONY CRUZ TRAINED FIVE WINNERS INCLUDING BOTH CUP RACES! BRILLIANT STUFF!

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BUT THERE’S MUCH MORE TO HONG KONG’S FAVOURITE RACING SON…

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TONY CRUZ: THE BRUCE LEE OF HONG KONG RACING

TONY CRUZ THE BRUCE LEE OF HONG KONG RACING 1a

TONY CRUZ THE BRUCE LEE OF HONG KONG RACING 1b

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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THE “CAN IT GET ANY WORSE?” ISSUE

OF MICE AND MEN AND TWITS AND TWITTER

Used properly, Twitter is not only an amazing marketing tool, it gives us a voice to bring about Change, and is also so immediate in the absorbing and sharing of news while bringing in a new discipline to communicate in 140 words or less with some intelligent people who are humorous, knowledgeable, interesting and not one-dimensional dweebs.

OF MICE AND MEN AND TWITS AND TWITTER 1

Having said this, as with other social media platforms, there exist the moronic. And when stumbling upon these, for some reason, mostly from the land Down Under, and seemingly desperate to make racing in Hong Kong part and parcel of Australia, the exchanges often border on the puerile- and embarrassing.

OF MICE AND MEN AND TWITS AND TWITTER 2

It’s these tweets, no matter how insignificant, that dumbs down horse racing and makes those wanting to be part of the sport see what’s being said and decide, Thanks, but No Thanks. It’s also a terrible advertisement for potential sponsors looking for a product with “aspirational” value, who decide that this ragtag customer group is not for them. There’s a difference between “you’re” and “your” and “he’s” and “his”, Forrest Gump. And no, you DON’T “know” this and that jockey because they’re polite enough to reply to a question on Twitter. You “know” them on bloody Twitter and will, most likely, never meet them in your life.

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THE EVOLUTION OF RACINGB*TCH

By Hans Ebert

There’s a scene in the brilliant suspense thriller “The Marathon Man” where Lawrence Olivier as Dr Christian Szell has Dustin Hoffman, playing Thomas “Babe” Levy, pinned to the dentist chair, and with drill in hand and aimed at a cavity in one of his teeth asks, “Is it safe?” For the racing industry and those who run it, it’s time to ask themselves, “Are you confident?” Better yet, “Are you playing it too safe?”

THE EVOLUTION 1

For the past few weeks, we’ve taken a break from writing about horse racing for the simple reason that there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said and read on Twitter. The Kentucky Derby has been run and won and, well, that’s that for another year.

THE EVOLUTION 2

In Australia, jockey Paul Hamblin was now found NOT to have been “over the limit” after originally “failing” a breathalyser test during the recent Warnambool carnival. How this will be played out will be interesting. It can’t, however, be nonchalantly brushed under the usual corporate carpet as being one of those unfortunate things.

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CHANGING THE FACE OF SPONSORSHIP IN HORSE RACING

By Hans Ebert

Almost two decades ago, a group of us, including a few jockeys from the land Down Under then riding in Macau, were talking about sponsorship- the sponsorship of jockeys, and how this could work. The discussion didn’t get further than whether a sponsor’s logo should appear on a helmet, down, or on the backside of britches. It was small talk over a very long lunch at our regular meeting place-California in Lan Kwai Fong. But like the idea of launching the legendary Diddling Didham Tongue Scraper, this, too, disappeared into the haze of an even longer night by which time most of us were well and truly stuffed and couldn’t even inhale a wafer.

CHANGING 1c

Over the years, the same subject- sponsorship- has come up only to have cold water poured over it with reasons like, “There can’t be any advertising when a jockey is wearing an owner’s silks”, “There won’t be many offers”, and the usual, “It’s not allowed”. Let’s just say that thinking about the subject has hardly evolved beyond idle talk during a long lunch.

CHANGING 2

In 2016, there are pockets of advertising on jockeys in certain racing jurisdictions during race days, but nothing major or innovative like the walking, talking advertising billboard that is a David Beckham or a Lewis Hamilton or a Nadal, Serena Williams, Dhoni, Tendulkar, Ronaldo, Federer, or, in his heyday, Tiger Woods.

CHANGING 3

Why? Well, one reason might be that there are agents who book rides for jockeys, but no bona fide international entertainment managers with marketing skills and influential roller decks who look after a jockey’s career- or that of a trainer, a stable, or even a horse that has sponsorship appeal. Chautaqua, anyone- and the team behind the rolling thunder of grey?

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Posted in DOUGLAS WHYTE, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, JOAO MOREIRA, The horse racing industry, Tommy Berry, WINFRIED ENGELBRECHT-BRESGES, zac purton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

THE HKJC RAISES THE BAR AGAIN, THANKS TO TWO INTERNATIONAL MEGASTARS

By Hans Ebert

MEGASTARS 1

Some of the natives were getting restless on Sunday. The usual May Day protests- this time against parallel goods traders- were about to get into full swing until it was aborted at the last minute. These days, organised protests in Hong Kong that, too often, deteriorate into organised chaos is something of an everyday occurrence in a very fractured city waiting for someone or something to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

MEGASTARS 2

What’s always extraordinary to many who live here is that horse racing continues as if in some parallel universe. At Shatin on Sunday, it was about two different kinds of imports- the equine kind where two of the best horses in the world competed on the eleven race card.

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MEGASTARS 4

By now, the devastating win of Australia’s Chautauqua to come from the clouds- some watching the race on television didn’t even see the Team Hawkes-trained and Tommy Berry-ridden champion descend on its hapless rivals until it had crossed the line- to take out the Group One Chairman’s Sprint. Berry is at one with the horse as he is with Hong Kong’s Designs On Rome, and his timing- his ability to temper his own excitement and time his run to perfection- must be applauded.

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HAPPY VALLEY AND HORSES FOR COURSES

By Hans Ebert

If anyone needs to understand what makes horse racing at Happy Valley so special, they really should have been at the races last night. Yes, most know and have seen the unique venue where there exists a racecourse in the middle of skyscrapers that’s always been something for the riders and their horses to conquer, but this track brings much more to the sport- almost a magical feeling.

HAPPY VALLEY AND HORSES FOR COURSES 1

Whereas longtime Hong Kong Belongers remember the days when Australian jockeys like Peter Miers, Glyn Pretty, Ray Setches, Geoff Lane and others ruled the track along with local Champion jockey Cheng Tai-chee, before him, Kenny Kwok, and a young gun named Tony Cruz was starting to make a name for himself, going racing at Happy Valley is a completely different experience to at least two generations in Hong Kong.

HAPPY VALLEY AND HORSES FOR COURSES 2

HAPPY VALLEY AND HORSES FOR COURSES 3

HAPPY VALLEY AND HORSES FOR COURSES 4

To the new generation trying to understand a sport that might at times be something they feel has no place for them, or has no upside, Wednesday night- Happy Wednesday- would have made believers of them.

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THE COMMON SENSE ISSUE

By Keyser Soze

OUTBREAK OF COMMON SENSE OVER WHIPS RULES!

THE COMMON SENSE ISSUE 1

It’s not often when the tail wagging the dog is welcomed, but in this instance, the refreshing and bold admissions coming out of the National Stewards Conference earlier this week that a rethink of the confusing and unworkable whips rules introduced last December is a huge and very positive step in the right direction.

THE COMMON SENSE ISSUE 3

Racing has always been averse to putting its hand up and admitting it’s cocked up. It has an unhealthy and terrifying fear of failure, which plays out in much of what it does and is one of the major contributing factors to it being left at the starting gates behind every other sport in an environment of dynamic change. Fear of failure is also rampant with so many hires in racing- a reason for daft ideas and petty politics.

THE COMMON SENSE ISSUE 4

Racing’s ultra conservative approach to everything it does marginalizes and isolates itself as an out of touch sport which is incapable of advocacy and defence, exposing it as hopelessly lacking in self-belief and confidence in what it does and should do and must stand for.

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THE HONG KONG RACING COVERAGE ISSUE

By Hans Ebert

It’s at the Emerald Hotel that many of the Melbourne racing crowd meet, and the joint has a certain, well, lived in atmosphere. It’s rustic- and a little rusty, but no one seems to mind. It’s a meeting place where anything and everything is discussed with nothing really making sense as, most important, is to ensure you don’t fall off the barstool while complete strangers sometimes wander by, stand in front of you and speak in a language known only to those from the planet Blotto.

COVERAGE ISSUE 1

It was at the Emerald on Saturday that we found ourselves after a “shunting” session following the races at Randwick and Caulfield. Still wanting to have a bet, apart from the hot trots and greyhound racing, the only thoroughbred races left were from Ascot in Western Australia, where jockey “King” William Pike, below, rules the roost, but the very good, competitive racing is allowed to flounder through rampant politics-and Hong Kong- the last four races in Hong Kong.

COVERAGE ISSUE 2

We must admit to shedding a little tear after finally finding the Hong Kong races in a small corner of a bank of television sets blinking away lonely, and with the sound off, which, sometimes, can be a blessing. Some of the race calling these days raise more than eyebrows. It drags Hong Kong racing down a few classes.

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