Have you missed us, muchachos? The Three Amigos have been holidaying with our favourite señoritas in our luxurious hacienda in Sri Lanka where we went upcountry to Nuwara Elya and watched the local gauchos ride at the recently opened Sri Lanka Turf Club. Yeee ha!
Though when the British colony was known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in Asia to hold horse racing meetings, we still hadn’t seen such Cisco Kid and Pancho riding styles since those surreal days in the Nineties when a local cowboy like “Rambo” WH Tse rode in Hong Kong and threw grenades at other riders and used a bullwhip to get the most out of his rides. Rambo Tse would not have been a poster boy for PETA.
Today, like Stanley Chin, below, at one-time an extremely talented Hong Kong jockey who fell in with bad company when young and tempted by serpents offering rotten apples, paid his price and rode very successfully throughout Europe, Rambo is a successful trainer in the great empty terrain of that racing wasteland known as The Macau Jockey Club.
We have muchos wonderful memories of going racing in Macau when the MJC had first opened in the former Portuguese enclave, and then doing the hanky panky after the races with Tommy James and the Shondells at the place where lots of Darlings, below, wore nothing but numbers and everyone heard the word Welcome when walking into the Bob Guccione-type overt gaucheness that was the popular China City with its assembly line of Eastern European product being paraded from room to karaoke room full of the sounds of it and many tripping over the hits of the Bee Gees. Sheesh.
What fun we had at the Hyatt Regency on Taipa Island as our minds turn back the hands of time and race with underlay underlay haste to the glory days over there of jockeys like Gary Moore, Peter Leyshan, who we hear now has a wonderful head of twelve slicked back black hairs, wannabe jockey Simon Jones, the errant Colin Dean, Mark Gallagher, Jose Corralles, Danny Brereton, and later, the reign of Johnny Didham, who made so much money over there he recently bought the entire “everest” slot machine from Racing NSW, and made Petrus Vlundies his personal Sherpa.
There were also Stevie Arnold, Sammy Hyland, Geoffrey Allendorf, below, who, these days is a trainer and looks like he’s eaten his entire stable. And jockey Andrew Calder.
There was Harry Troy, John Roe, and Robert “Heffo” Heffernan, who’s somewhere in la la land- and we don’t mean he’s suddenly become Ryan Reynolds. But enough of the reminiscing…
The muchos humus humongous news in Hong Kong this week is that El Freedo aka Michael Freedman will be training here next season. He’s like the Julio Iglesias of horse racing with his dark brooding looks.
Why is he coming to Hong Kong? To escape Everest? Maybe. But why not? Doesn’t everyone want to come to Hong Kong? El Freedo is young- 49, he’s gifted, he’s not black, but having spent muchos time in Singapore, the land of the Stepford Wives, and trained for a number of Hong Kong owners including Robert Ng and the Lo-down connections of Military Attack, El Freedo definitely knows the ins and outs and sideways of Brix, plus the quirks of racing in this part of the world.
He would also know a good banana leaf restaurant from a bad one and what makes a good roti prata. Our amigo El Casibah Fownes, who prides himself in chugging down fiery sambal sandwiches and curried eggs for breakfast, might have some serious competition in this latter category. El Freedo could give him some serious runs.
Yes, El Freedo will do very well for himself in Hong Kong though we remain puzzled at the seemingly endless fall from grace of Ricardo Montalban Gibson and his work rider Tattoo.
Maybe they need to have their heads shaved to change their fung shui before they can greet guests again from Fantasy Island: “Meetah Rourke! Meetah Rourke! De plane! De plane!” Ever wondered what an effete Latino man in a white suit was doing on a deserted island with a small male person? Hmmmmm? The Three Amigos often wrestle with this question. And then we get so worked up, we wrestle amongst ourselves. We know: Weird. But so were Meetah Rourke and Tattoo.
The only new owner we know that Ricardo Montalban Gibson has attracted is the former music executive amigo behind galloper Who Dat Singa who runs in race nine today. Not the former music executive. The horse who came second in the 2016 WATC Derby run over 2400m when trained by Alan Matthews.
Forget that the Magic Man is on it this afternoon and talk about how he “called up for the ride”. As El Zimmo once sang, When you have nothing and no rides in a race, you have nothing. And this fairly expensive purchase from Western Australia, bought with dreams of the HK Derby in mind who’s an out and out stayer and is now tackling 1400m after a plodding eighth at his last start when racing down a class, has been mapped out a racing programme that’s quite a bit on the strange side of loco. We’re three confused Amigos.
Who Dat Singa, which as he did when racing with great success in WA, sports blinkers for the first time today, must be so confused, he must be wondering if who dat Singa could be Enrique Iglesias’ lost mole. But there might be a hint of Menudo in Ricardo Montalban Gibson’s madness, and expect the pretty good galloper to run a good race today without winning. That we’ll leave to either Sichuan Dar, Travel First or Keen Venture. And how about THIS for a keen venture: Sydney-based Race caller and extremely hard working and Mr Nice Guy Anthony Manton, below, who was very strongly tipped to be part of the HKJC Trackside Team- he really should be here- is now “Australia’s most hated man on television” because of his appearance on the reality series “Married At First Sight”. Who would have thought?
Meanwhile, there’s some Menudo in the madness of watching Raging Bull To Win in the multimedia section of the eleganza HKJC website, where after each race one needs to log in and then leave and check back in to watch the next race with host Amigo Andrew greeting viewers with a spooky Norman Bates inspired introduction: “Hello. Care for a Bates Motel shower?”
Muchos trouble, Raging Bull amigos with buffering and wifi problems slowing everything down to a creepy crawly though we laugh like crazy hombres when hearing things like Edward Sadler needing to tiptoe to reach a urinal. Maybe Andrew Hawkins can give him a leg up? Or a manly hug.
We’re not sure these are the kinda tips that are going to keep us watching the programme though what sounds like someone banging pots pans in the background has a certain je ne sais quoi, but this type of weirdness at least provides muchos vive le difference though we must ask this of the producers behind the twice weekly extravagonzola:
Of course, the Classic Cup is the day’s big race and everyone and their plush toys expect Rapper Dragon to win.
Rapper Dragon should win, and, if we had our way, Snoop Dogg would rap a Thank U Dawg speech. As for the race, we expect Señor Gnasher to issue a big challenge aboard the Danny Shum trained Seasons Bloom, our horse to follow for the rest of the season and the next. He’s Shum-thing special. Like a tofu enchilada with green chillies.
Something that must also be mentioned is how hard The Gnasher has fought to ward off negativity, worked together with leading local trainers like Shum, Chris So and Dennis Yip to build a very loyal foundation for himself from which he can extend his net to attract winning rides from the leading stables of the foreign trainers. And if his young son Campbell has helped him reinvent himself, so be it. Family is the best support system anyone can have in life.
Still with jockeys, ten-pound claiming Hong Kong apprentice Matthew “Boom Boom” Poon, who has a great chance of winning the Jockey Premiership in Adelaide, is being rushed back here in April, and even us loco Three Amigos can understand why.
Though we have some good, competent local riders in Derek Leung, Vincent Ho, Keith Yeung, the enigmatic Matthew Chadwick, who should never have lost the ride on that almost forgotten horse of Hong Kong racing- Pakistan Star- and the princess that is Kei Chiong, there’s still the need for a real superstar rider from Hong Kong. Kei is popular. But she’s no Selena Gomes.
Dubbed “The Poon Train” for his winning streaks, though some who have seen him on the dance floor thinks he has more than a touch of Bruno Mars about him, “Boom Boom” Poon seems to be the total package. He’s going to be hugely in-demand by every local trainer, and how this affects some of the expatriate jockeys is something that’s going to be interesting to watch unfold.
Matthew Poon is no Dylan Mo, Alvin Ng, or even a Kei Chiong. This is a 10-pound claimer who rides like an experienced senior jockey.
As for today, as always, Joao Moreira will ride his usual quota of at least three winners and win the Jockey Challenge. We say Adios for a momento to Silvestre de Sousa and Alexi Badel, and today being the day when the brilliant horseman John Size trains the two winners that has him racking up his 1000th winner in Hong Kong. If everything goes according to script, this win should happen in the last.
Race 9: Sichuan Dar (2)
Race 5: Multigogo (7)
Race 8: Seasons Bloom (8)