Not since “The Thrilla In Manila” has Hong Kong seen a battle royal like this between two competitive sportsmen. And that was in Manila, the Philippines and when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier pummeled each other for the right to be crowned the World Heavyweight Boxing champion.
On Wednesday afternoon at Shatin racecourse, Australian Brett Prebble and South African Douglas Whyte put on a show of their own that had the crowds cheering and which put everything and everyone else into a co-starring role. This was better than any of the World Cup matches seen to date. Under a gloomy sky and while the drums were beating for the Dragon Boat Races in Stanley, these two extremely competitive jockeys and with no love-lost between each other. took the 11-strong race card by the scruff of its neck, moved anyone in the way and owned the meeting.
When the first race went off at 12.25pm, Whyte drew first-blood by winning- and easily- aboard the John Size-trained odds-on favourite “Fulfill A Wish”. As expected and, according to script, Brett Prebble answered by winning the second on the favourite. And then, the script changed completely.
On a day where some expected Whyte to wipe away the four win lead Prebble held at that time in the Jockeys Premiership, Prebble came roaring back to win race three, Whyte countered by taking out the fourth, only for Prebble, refusing to lie down, taking out the fifth. With five races down, Whyte and Prebble had the race meeting between themselves. The two went to their respective corners for a short time, until Whyte returned to land a knockout blow on the short-priced favourite “Szechuan Success” in the ninth.
In-between, Jeff Lloyd had won race six with another extremely good ride aboard the David Ferraris-trained “Mighty Feeling,” the hard-working and likeable Greg Cheyne won race seven and with Darren Beadman taking out the day’s Cup race aboard the John Moore-trained “Able One.” But these were mere cameo appearances with Douglas Whyte coming back to land his and Trainer John Size’ fourth winner for the day on “National Treasure in Race 10.
The wins by Whyte were “expected”- as expected as “sure things” and “certainties” can be in horse racing. For Brett Prebble, this was a “win” as he was to get the most out of two more rides which were certainly no “sure things”. Watching him ride, there was the grit of a man determined and even a little bit possessed. This 2010/2011 Hong Kong Jockeys Premiership is his to keep for the time being and he will not let it go. He won’t let this championship title go without a battle. And he won’t let go of it. Period. Neither will Douglas Whyte. He has won the Hong Kong Jockeys championship for nine consecutive seasons and, he, is also not going to lie and take it on his cleft chin.
Coming into the last race for the day and with night time falling on Hong Kong, Douglas Whyte was on the favourite- the John Size-trained “Seek And Destroy”. It was meant to go according to script. But it didn’t. With “Seek And Destroy” sending out distress signals long before the finish, Brett Prebble revved up the Caspar Fownes-trained “El Morro”- ironically, Whyte’s ride if not for his commitment to “Seek And Destroy”- and won at 14 to 1.
At the end of the day, it was four winners apiece and with both being winners, but with the real “winner” being Brett Prebble. Credit where credit is due and we take our hats off to the jockey. We also will eat our words and some humble pie and say this: Brett Prebble is a very, very good jockey and if and when he wins his first Hong Kong Jockeys Premiership, he deserves it. He does not deserve to lose it at this late stage of the game.
This coming Sunday was meant to be Brett Prebble’s day to “return” and “wipe out the ground” he had “lost” to Whyte on Wednesday. Well, there was no ground to make up. It was all square and as we now head to the Sunday meeting and where Prebble is meant to cement his position and land his first Hong Kong Jockey’s Premiership title, who’s to say that Douglas Whyte will not do everything to adlib and re-write the ending?
We love it! This is what horse racing should be! This is what the HKJC should be marketing to non-race goers! This is what has caught the interest of a number of female non-race goers we know who, before all this, didn’t know Brett Prebble from Barney Rubble and Douglas Whyte from Johnny Walker Black. Will the HKJC take advantage of this? We doubt it for the simple reason that we don’t believe they know how. And even some within the Club will admit this.
Over the past two years, we have given the Club enough of free kicks. In fact, we have given them so many free kicks that are feet have swelled up. It’s like suffering from bloody gout.
The Club will simply continue to hand out key chains in the design of furry turd balls. They will focus on their Beer Garden and dumbass Sassy Wednesday promotions. They’ll use “digital agencies” and “revamp” their already-revamped website and still with the blinkers on refuse to listen to all the “unrest” around them.
Alan Aitken of the Morning Post did an excellent piece this week on Hong Kong no longer being seen as the land of milk and honey by jockeys from around the world. This is an old story but it gets newer every day. It’s no longer a million dollar magnet to dangle in front of jockeys and who are extremely happy where they are. We have a list of lads from Australia who have turned their backs on riding in Hong Kong. The lads from Europe won’t even consider it. Even Joe Egan won’t come and ride in Hong Kong. Alan Munro might.
How long will Oliver Delouze ride in Hong Kong before whistling “C’est la vie”, packing it and moving to Singapore? Not long, we think, mes amis. How long before the brilliant Gerard Mosse finally gets tired of riding Class 4 and Class 5 animals in Hong Kong which he calls “goats” and pulls the pin? Not long, too. Hell, how long before even Douglas Whyte says, “I’ve done it all and I need some new challenges?”
This is what the HKJC doesn’t see. Of course, some do and are trying to move the goalposts. But many of these goalposts are “steeped in tradition” and refuse to budge. So, what happens? Wait until these “goalposts” come unhinged and then come tumbling down like Humpty Dumpty? Damn, they’re already on their last legs!
The HKJC is a monopoly, but it cannot and should not act nor work or be seen as a monopoly. Perception is often more than half the battle. Monopolies are often arrogant and stubborn. And even a bit lazy. Even if Armageddon were to come knocking at their door, many monopolies will let them in for a cuppa tea and crumpets.
Whoever “upstairs” is really running the Club needs to realize that we’re living in a world which demands greater transparency than ever before. A world where there are now so many choices when it comes to what is cutely referred to as “leisure activities” and more and more choices every day as to with whom and when and where to have a bet.
Hong Kong racing is no longer what it was like during the days of General Watkins, Danny Brereton and Geoff Lane, Nigel Tiley, Darryl Holland and “Piranha” and Wong Tang-ping and Brian Kan and Bart Leisher and Rod Staples, good bloke David Brosnan who became the Fall Guy for so many, Peter Leyshan and others. It’s no longer in awe of The Moore Dynasty. All the old “family secrets” are out and everyone knows about everything about what was in Pandora’s Box.
Someone needs to buy the HKJC a new broom. Then, show them how to use is as, in the immortal words of that famed horseman Bob Dylan, “The pump don’t work ‘cos the vandals took the handles”.