We never made it to the Asian Racing Conference which closes today. Not that we had better things to do, but for the simple reason that our over-active minds might have imploded if having to sit there- strait-jacketed and gagged.
Instead, we felt we did the right thing by having the Guest Speakers who had worked hard on their presentations- and those driving the industry- enjoy their moment in the sun with no interruptions from the peanut gallery.
The Twitterverse kept us updated on everything and it appears that much was discussed, many new initiatives presented and, apart from the technological improvements to come in the presentation of horse racing when it comes to broadcasts- let’s just hope the technology doesn’t become the idea- what perked us up more than downing a Red Bull 12-pack was hearing about the wheels in motion set to roll by the Japanese Racing Association (JRA) to create facilities with the female race-goer in mind. And not a minute too soon.
As we have been saying for the past few years, the role of females in all aspects of the sport have gone from a movement to close to a takeover- especially in Hong Kong and Japan with many other cash-strapped and aggressive, savvy business women-looking at racing through The Bamboo Curtain in Mainland China.
Forget that old fart and demeaning expression of horse racing needing “eye candy” ‘cos “man goes where woman goes.” Please. Thats just small-time loser Me, Tarzan, You, Jane, Wanchai talk and belongs in the of the Neanderthal man.
As those who have REALLY attended a Happy Wednesday race night in Hong Kong will know- and not those looking from the sidelines and becoming overnight gurus on customer demographics- the female race-goer at the Beer – usually from the financial and media sectors, well-travelled and 25+- though new to the sport, are far more interested than many of the males in tow in how to read the totalizator, how to make a bet and interested in how to win.
A Happy Wednesday night has evolved from those, er, “Sassy” Wednesday nights of a few years ago to provide this customer group- hip enough to be turned off by a cornball word like “sassy”- with a chilled, fun atmosphere to watch races up close and personal enough to exchange hi-fives with winning jockeys which play a huge role in whom they back with their pooled resources of HK$4-5,000.
Sure, $5,000 is not exactly dollars to rock the tote, but how much did any of us invest at our first few times at the races?
One has to start somewhere- and with something as part of a learning curve- whereas what matters to them when it comes to racing is a clever Dummies Guide To Racing available on their iPhones for them to figure out this sport for themselves.
Like the thrill of the chase in the dance of sex, the challenge to create their own “systems” to win is as important as the thrill of winning.
In a voracious horse racing-driven country like Australia, Gai Waterhouse and Francesca Cumani are the only two ladies we know that command attention and have many quaking in their boots- and for very different reasons.
In Hong Kong, Female Power in racing is far more widespread.
They say that behind every successful man is a strong woman and this is never more true than when it comes to horse racing.
Stephen Lo, for example, might own Military Attack and other horses, but only a fool would underestimate the power wife Canny Leung wields over his equine business.
Attractive, savvy and a published author, poet and lyricist, Canny Leung also co-owns every one of her husband’s horses and has a huge say in where they run and who rides them.
She might come across being content to play a co-starring role as the trophy wife at the races, but speak to her away from the cameras and eavesdroppers, and what comes across is a tough lady who knows the ins, outs and sideways of horse racing and “works” with a close network of like-minded female friends.
These are who we call The Ladies Of Shatin with information about stables, extremely good “mail” and with some of THE smartest ways of betting- and winning- on, mainly, tierces and all-up quinella/place investments.
These ladies are as driven to be major players in racing as they are in how they invest in the stock market, the property market and any new business.
These are no nickel and dime racing tragics who follow tips or Old School punters who refuse to accept change.
Hell, these well-heeled fortysomething ladies DEMAND change because they ARE change.
What are they looking for- if anything- to enhance their Day At The Races?
From what we’ve been told, everything from an upmarket and exclusive Starbucks-type Coffee house where they can congregate and feel a sense of privacy. And exclusivity.
Think a meeting of The First Wives Club at the relatively new venue at Shatin Racecourse like the posh Hay Market with its private function rooms.
On-track fashion shows, acrobats, jugglers, clowns- the circus kind- and singers are not for them.
Racing is part of their business portfolio and business has no time for distractions.
So, while we await to see the JRA’s plans to attract and enhance the race day experience of the female race-goer, we remain extremely interested in following the wagering habits of the novices to racing we meet at Happy Valley on those Happy Wednesday nights, and also how the starring roles that the likes of Canny Leung and Michelle Reis in Hong Kong, owner Desiree Cheng associated with Eliza Park in Australia, and all those Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons waiting in the wings in Mainland will influence and impact the present and future of the sport.
It makes for some fascinating viewing.7
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