On Wednesday night at Happy Valley, they roll into town- the modern version of gunslingers and the fastest draws in the West and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai in the form of the world’s riders from the storm- twelve of the worlds best jockeys ready to do battle against each other and be named the King Of The Turf as they compete in the Longines International Championship.
One almost expects to hear the Themes from A Fistful Of Dollars or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as the twelve riders are introduced.
Theatre, lights, action, a bit of drama and tension and excitement, please, and not some shocker screaming out names- and getting them wrong.
Something different, please, because, as the world turns, so do stomachs, and so must the way events are presented to consumers who have seen it all- many times before.
Absence- and even abstinence- might make the heart grow fonder, but familiarity and similarity breeds contempt and is just boring.
Been here, done that and have the t-shirt.
There must be fireworks- on and off the track- but nothing as frighteningly bizarre as Sheik Mo’s over-the-top Massacre Of Meydan last year which was scarier than Orson Welles’ broadcast of War Of The World.
International jockey challenges happen regularly in many racing jurisdictions with varying degrees of success.
Many sink without trace as they simply don’t have the marquee value names and are usually “promoted” after the event- and the horses have bolted.
Not so, Wednesday’s Main Event at Happy Valley Racecourse with names like the legendary Gary Stevens and Mike Smith representing the States.
The return to the saddle at 50-years-old by Stevens after dabbling as a broadcaster and actor- he had a hugely successful short riding stint out here in the Nineties which many seem to have forgotten- plus the exploits of Smith and the great Zenyatta are movies waiting to happen.
Add to this cast, the UK’s Richard Hughes who won the World Super Jockey Series in Japan over the weekend- and a great ambassador for the sport through his very clever use of social media- far better than many racing clubs and the tiresome cliquey tweets from the armies hired.
There’s also the brilliant Christophe Soumillon from Belgium, young guns Maxime Guyon from France and Suguru Hamanaka from Japan, Italian Mirco Demuro, Kerrin McEvoy from Australia, Christophe Lemaire from France plus, representing the home team is the Champ himself- Douglas Whyte- Keith Yeung and the ace in the hole who’s making winning look so easy- Zac Purton.
Seriously, is there anyone, anywhere, riding better and with more confidence- and as regularly- as Purton?
On Sunday, he rode yet another treble, won another Jockey Challenge- and this is key- has made the powerful Chinese racing media lose their negativity towards Aussie jockeys. Well, at least one Aussie jockey.
This suspicion and negativity goes all the way back to those days when Aussie racing cliques flourished in Hong Kong- computer syndicates, ponzie schemes, racing personalities, journalists, Michael Bastion- and we know what happened to him- trainers and jockeys from Down Under, all under the probing eyes of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, a very grey law unto its own and, recently, proven to be as crooked as those it was hounding.
Moving on from that darkness, Wednesday’s four designated races which will see one of these great jockeys named The King Of The Turf is not some little Sideshow Bob or cameo appearances with nothing at stake.
Pride and winning amongst the world’s best is priceless.
To these riders, it’s oneupmanship and one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and allowing no one to step on their toes once the starter presses that button.
Yes, there’s much to be said about pressing and pushing the right buttons- and when.
As in the Twilight series with its Twihards supporting Team Edward and Team Jacob, the fans will be out in force to cheer on this United Nations of Racing at the Beer Garden, around the parade ring, up at Adrenaline, at the Gallery and wherever else the regular Happy Wednesday crowd goes to get a front row seat- and away from that ceaseless din coming at everyone in English and Cantonese from all directions.
Apart from the call of the race, all of it falls on deaf ears.
Sure, have the chat for home viewers watching television, but NO ONE is listening to ANY of it at the track.
It’s an intrusion and often has us screaming.
It’s the bells, Quasimodo! The bells! Run! Hide! Get us to the loo so we can hide and think of our bets!
Meanwhile, as silence grips the early morning air, let’s also not forget the support card featuring another five races, the entertainment factor in all venues and with everything building up to Sunday at Shatin where champions will meet and we’ll be screaming out for Moonlight Cloud, Mount Athos, Francesca Cumani and Akeeeeeed Mofeeeeeed.