THE CHANGING FACE OF HORSE RACING

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We were listening earlier this week to the tributes pour in for legendary Aussie trainer Bob Hoysted and heard all those who worked with him over the years praise someone they all described as a very special human being.

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In racing, we don’t seem to praise people enough while they’re still with us.

There seems to be some unwritten law from a very dark past that cynicism, distrust and an evil competitive streak must be the pilot that drives the internal engines of so many.

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Recently, we have watched and seen young Australian jockey Tommy Berry show the world- and not just the racing world- about maturity way beyond his years and great human resolve following the loss of his twin brother, Nathan.

Berry incorporated

The quiet, dignified way he has handled himself under what must be enormous sadness continues to inspire many and with Nathan’s life here with us living on.

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Over the years, South African Douglas Whyte has shown why he is a champion by the way he conducts himself, on and off the field, as he continues to be a great ambassador for the sport while being his own man and staying well clear of talking down his fellow riders and engaging in puerile conversations.

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The lessons he learnt from the legendary Horse Whisperer- Monty Roberts- about the caring of horses has kept his personal life in check.

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Brazilian Joao Moreira has brought a refreshing air of humility and an effusive personality that has given racing a human face.

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Despite these shining examples of positivity, there are always that rabid pack of ankle biters- those petty people who, despite being in the racing media, which, amongst other things, is meant to help promote the sport, find the most ugly reasons to try and undermine it and those they perceive as The Enemy Within.

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The global racing media, like the pool of racing executives found from that same talent pool, is a small one- a very small one.

Within the equally small racing universe, everyone knows who they are as many have been around for decades with that familiar game of musical chairs moving them from one racing jurisdiction to the next.

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Perhaps it’s a false sense of self-importance, or living and working in that insular balloon, or, very simply put, being geographically-challenged- and hardly brilliant writers- but the politics and jealousies in racing is allowed to carry on when it’s high time all this should be gelded and cut-off at the knees.

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Having read a nonsensical piece of fluff by a Sydney-based gossip reporter about last week’s Asian Racing Conference, we couldn’t believe the inaccuracies and rancid bitterness in his three lingering sentences.

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We are hardly fans of conferences of any kind, but, once in a while, good things can come outta them and even one good thing is good enough.

From everything we know, this 35th Asian Racing Conference covered many aspects of the global racing industry- and not only “Asia”- and the diversity of subjects discussed meant there was something for everyone to take away.

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After all, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and neither should one try.

Do this and the end result will be a diluted event having the impact of a flea and a turn-off to participants and existing and potential sponsors wondering whether it’s worth their marketing dollars for a slice of A Day At The Races.

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To read, however, that Racing NSW had “better things to do” than attend the conference, drag out the old Chris Munce Trojan horse, bash Hong Kong racing and write that “copious amounts of Tsingtao” were consumed with a childish “boo hoo” added for, er, “humorous” effect was embarrassing- not to us- but for this writer as even those in Sydney dismissed it with, “Has this bloke ever BEEN to Hong Kong?”

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We’re not expecting everyone to hold hands, wave Bic lighters in the air and sing All You Need Is Love, but shedding parochial thinking and respecting other cultures while being man enough to applaud success stories can correct many wrong perceptions the millions outside of horse racing has of a sport that’s still to earn its stripes in the greater pantheon of sports entertainment.

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Though enjoying horse racing and interested in the marketing of the sport, respecting a handful of those involved in it, and knowing its sponsorship value and opportunities, but with much greater interest in other industries, we are happy to be strangers in a strange land and be on the outside looking in.

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From the outside, what we see are different pockets of players- the innovators, the procrastinators, the bluffers and fluffers and those executives whose job titles raise more questions than answers and remain the Rodney Dangerfields of racing.

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The future of racing does not need factions.

The future of racing needs teamwork- globally.

The future of racing doesn’t need politics brought about through insecurities.

The world has seen enough of these, believed in them, and it hasn’t got us far.

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The future of racing doesn’t need to plod through the same terrain looking for answers that aren’t there like a mudlark on its last legs searching for better going.

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The future of racing needs more external communications with the consumer and no more internal navel gazing.

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The future of racing needs to heighten the excitement of the sport, yes, but also R.E.M’s shiny happy creatively strategic people who understand and can connect with consumers and see new opportunities and can grasp them- fast.

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These will be the winners in a sport undergoing a huge paradigm shift driven by consumer demands, new equine heroes like South Africa’s Variety Club and Hong Kong’s Designs On Rome, and with that broken wheel replaced by the visionaries in the industry busy making up for lost time- and those who know how to, changing with the times.

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As for those unable or unprepared to come along for the ride, well, now might be a good time to do the right thing, jump off the ship with that golden handshake and disappear into the background.

Their Use By date was up years ago, they’re getting in the way of progress and is baggage that can no longer be carried by others, Kemo Sabay.

lone ranger tonto first still

This entry was posted in HAPPY WEDNESDAY, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, The horse racing industry, Tommy Berry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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