THE WELFARE OF OUR STATE

By Robyn Louw

Many years ago, we were away on a family holiday along with my aunt and younger cousins. The baby of the family was at that exploratory stage where they were still finding out about their body and every so often my aunt would have to admonish them to stop. Eventually my cousin, clearly frustrated, retored “But mommy, it’s nice!” To which there wasn’t really an answer because of course the child was correct and what they were doing was perfectly normal and natural, but so began the tedious process of explaining what society does and does not deem acceptable behaviour and how we need to modify our behaviour in order to fit in.

Of course, what society does and does not deem acceptable behaviour changes as society evolves and (hopefully) becomes more civilised and educated and thoughtful about its environment.

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And I think therein lies the crux of the matter for racing. Society is changing and so is what is deemed acceptable and racing is increasingly coming up against the issue of changing social and ethical norms. While there are increasing numbers of welfare groups and folks out saving the rainforest, using roll-on deodorants and campaigning for less packaging on our groceries, at the same time modern society and the urban sprawl means that we are less and less connected to the natural world and to the natural food chain.

Modern life is all about convenience. We are so used to buying ready meals and neatly packaged, sanitised everything that no-one really has to consider the real source anymore. Eggs come in boxes (not out of chickens), milk comes in cartons (not out of cows) and our meat comes beautifully packaged in sanitised and easy to use portions with a happy cartoon figure – if anything – of the animal that died for your dinner. There is a fundamental disconnect, but the consumer aspect of it means that large groups of people / consumers have strong opinions about things that they do not really understand. People will happily criticise a handler leading a colt around a parade ring in the strongest terms despite never having handled one in their life and whether it makes sense or not, this poses a problem for racing and that problem is going to increase unless we take steps to address it.

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THE EVEREST: ONE MAN’S QUEST TO CREATE THE BEN HUR OF HORSE RACING

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And so it came to pass that while walking around the colosseum-like surroundings of my office wearing my toga and sandals that two or five voices in my head called out to me: “Pete, Pete. The rumours were wrong! The German is apparently not going anywhere, and The Pegasus made flying news in that alternative horse racing universe!”

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“The Pegasus?” I thought to myself. “Did I miss something? Who’s Pegasus? Club Pegasus in Bangkok? Hmmmmm, what to do, what to do?” I asked Blitzen and Datsun, but they said nothing.

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Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Horse Racing | Tagged | 4 Comments

WHAT HORSE RACING CAN LEARN FROM THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN…AND LEADERSHIP

By Hans Ebert

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It’s been one helluva week. In his first nine days as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump has not only turned his own country upside down, but the rest of the world along with it. If Barack Obama was, to some, a “showbiz president”, surely we’re seeing an ongoing reality series hosted by Citizen Bane mixed with The Dark Knight Rises unveiling before our eyes?

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Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, Marketing of horse racing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

HORSE RACING: IT’S TIME TO LISTEN TO NIKE AND JUST DO IT!

By Hans Ebert

For those who don’t follow horse racing, it was something most wouldn’t have even read about: Rapper Dragon winning the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Mile at Shatin racecourse on Sunday. To racing fans, however, here was something to celebrate, something to discuss, share, go through the history books and play trivial pursuit to see what this achievement meant so they could own bragging rights. It was one of those all-too-rare Feel Good moments in a sport too often allowed to meander along with little or no creativity and leadership. But Rapper Dragon led from the front and stayed there.

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Racing fans talking about Rapper Dragon with other fans is no different to having, let’s say, a new artist coming out with a recording of “Purple Rain”, turning the classic by Prince on its head, and seeing the track suddenly start trending. Okay, that might be a stretch, but this is surely the time when the world should come together, start to really understand each other and embrace the differences.

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There’s also the need to switch on that inquisitive mind. In the world of horse racing, the On switch has been off for too long, which means not even trying to make those with a passing interest in the sport understand the significance of that win by Rapper Dragon, the training effort by John Moore, and the ride of the mercurial Joao Moreira, a poor kid from São Paulo, who couldn’t afford to own a saddle until in his teens, fought all kinds of adversity, and is now known as The Magic Man- one of the two best jockeys in the world. If anyone can help bring horse racing into the mainstream consciousness, it’s the very marketable Brazilian. This athlete is the total package- charismatic, likeable, a fiercely competitive rider, hugely talented, successful and beguilingly media savvy. The man is no fool.

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Posted in Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, JOAO MOREIRA, The horse racing industry | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HORSE RACING THERAPY: TRY IT

What a strange few days it’s been for the world. There was Metallica performing in Hong Kong on Friday night during which time America was swearing in its 45th President who started off by describing the Obamas as being “magnificent” before making an abrupt U-turn and raging against the White House machinery, and proclaiming that he was the saviour of the people for the people by the people Really? Was this Bane back to destroy Gotham City? Where was Batman?

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The world watched in a combination of shock, horror, confusion, fear, anger and wondering how to put this orange genie back into the bottle. Yesterday, while many were watching the United States of America come apart at the seams with battle lines being drawn, many around the world walked the walk and went on a Women’s March.

The Orange One was oblivious to all this. He was attending the National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral.

Today in Hong Kong, at least some of us can switch off, go to Shatin and see whether Rapper Dragon wins the Group 1 Classic Mile, or if a new Pakistan Star arrives along with more merchandise and blows his competition away.

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AND NOW FOR A CHANGE OF PACE…CRICKET LOVELY CRICKET IN HONG KONG

By Hans Ebert

Having been born in what was then Ceylon- a rabid cricketing nation now known as Sri Lanka- played school cricket while looking up to two elder cousins playing cricket for various clubs in Hong Kong, one captaining Hong Kong, and growing up around the sport, cricket has not only played a role in my life, the sport was once part of a city trying to find its way through trial and error by being an important meeting and melting pot of nationalities.

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My eldest cousin- Carl Myatt, pictured below at the centre of the photograph, was Editor of The Sunday Morning Post and later, the TV Times, but was far better known for his bowling and captaincy of local cricket clubs like the Indian Recreation Club, the Craigengower Cricket Club, and later captaining the Hong Kong cricket team.

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Whereas his younger brother Tony, below, with and without hair, was always said to have more talent- a lethal pace bowler who could make a ball turn faster than Linda Blair’s head did in “The Exorcist”- he didn’t have the determination and discipline of Carl.

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THE MANY QUESTIONS FACING THE WORLD OF HORSE RACING…

By Hans Ebert

There’s a new movie out called “Urban Myths” which flips things on its head- “true-ish” stories based on urban legends about a road trip featuring Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor with Joseph Fiennes playing Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan in search of “Dave”, actor Cary Grant’s rumoured experimentations with LSD, Adolph Hitler and his “friend”, Samuel Becket etc.

Right here and now, everything in the world is being flipped on its head. Why? Because we’re living in unpredictable times, and leading many into the abyss of nowhere land is a confused global news media that’s more showbiz (and snow biz) than about factual news reportage. There’s The Silent Scream of, Stop the world, I wanna get off, and start all over again.

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Couple this with the often whacked out world of social media, and what you have is a bizarre cacophony of sound bites that are equal parts fear, manipulation, distortion, negativity, deceit, and lost souls thinking they have a voice. What many don’t understand is voices that cannot be heard or ignored are like Buster Keaton trying to make it as a standup comic.

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In the midst of all this “everything and nothing” is horse racing. Every racing jurisdiction is different, because the histories and cultures of each are different. So are the politics, especially rampant for the last couple of years, in one particular racing jurisdiction in the land down under, where, too often, we have seen battle lines being drawn, and everybody being wrong because nobody’s right. Its familiar plots being regurgitated by the usual keyboard warriors with opportunistic racing journalists fanning the fires while racing executives allow the same old story to go on and on and on, does nothing to help the situation.

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Posted in DOUGLAS WHYTE, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, The horse racing industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ZAC PURTON: RISING TO THE OCCASION. AGAIN.

By Hans Ebert

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Just when you start to think that we’re caught inside of Mobil with the Déjà Vu Blues again, racing in Hong Kong has a habit of reinventing itself to stop the barbarians of boredom from crashing through the door. Racing fans have seen this through osmosis, if you will, from the days when South Africans Basil Marcus and Douglas Whyte ruled the Jockey Premiership for twenty one years- Marcus for seven years, a cameo appearance for a year by Robbie Fradd, and then the incredible thirteen year reign of Douglas Whyte.

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Posted in brett prebble, casper fownes, DOUGLAS WHYTE, HAPPY WEDNESDAY, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, JOAO MOREIRA, The horse racing industry, zac purton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES BEHIND THE SUCCESS OF HONG KONG RACING

By Hans Ebert

JAMES MATHERS WRITES IN ON HK RACING AND THE #HKIR

Visitor James Mathers from Sydney recently shared his observations about racing in Hong Kong after attending December’s 2016 Longines Hong Kong International Races- the venues, what’s in place to appeal to different customer segments, the horse racing itself. Others also experiencing racing in Hong Kong for the first time have made their opinions known.

James probably ran out of space to mention all the different nationalities involved in the sport- Australians, South Africans, Mauritians, Chinese, Irish, French and one Brazilian. When writing the song below, it really was a tribute to these people, some known better than others, and who blend seamlessly into this amazing city and give horse racing here a heartbeat.

Racing in Hong Kong cannot be compared to racing in Australia. Or anywhere else. This would be like comparing oranges to dim sum, or the bar at the Emerald Hotel to the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons. It would be like Marty McFly trying to change history. Both racing jurisdictions are too far down the road with their own business models to make any U-turns even if they wanted to. And they don’t. Like life, you play the hand you’re dealt. You make the most out of it, Marty.

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Posted in HAPPY WEDNESDAY, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, The horse racing industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

THE “ONE BIG MAC TO GO WITH EVERYTHING ON THE SIDE”

By Hans Ebert

Everything that needs to be known about the James McDonald case seems to have been written. Whether there’s more fallout involving others, only time will tell.

What has not been written is what can be done to keep out the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, The Tennis Player, and other vultures and parasites hovering around, especially young jockeys, who are perhaps not the most streetwise, and like the serpent offering the apple to Adam, playing on their vulnerability to be Oliver Twisted by handing them something rotten to the core.

Do these characters- these pox on society- exist everywhere there’s horse racing? Probably. It’s certainly no secret that, like fleas, they’re all over horse racing in Singapore and Malaysia, which is why these racing jurisdictions are often banished to the wilderness and not taken seriously.

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Before the Macau Racing Club became Le Rue Morgue, and looked like being a healthy, thriving, young racing club, it didn’t take long for the “dark invaders” to move in with some racing executives laying out the Welcome mat for them.

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Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, JAMES MCDONALD | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments