HONG KONG RACING: BACK TO THE FUTURE

By Hans Ebert

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When, for some of us longtime Hong Kong Belongers, our parents, and those whom we respectfully called “aunties” and “uncles”, had the clout to get us 15-year-olds into places like the Craigengower Cricket Club Box (CCC) at Happy Valley Racecourse- a very big deal at the time- it was an invaluable education into the ins and outs of the early days of horse racing in Hong Kong. And listening to these elders speak knowingly about who they knew in the riding ranks, and how the sport could be choreographed, had the CCC and neighbouring private Boxes abuzz with conspiracy theories, especially after a race had been run. By then, our HK$50 pocket money had gone with Donald and his “troosers”. But, as they say, no worries. We were in the school of racing.

For a kid new to the sport, it was better than watching a thriller. These were real life mysteries with an intoxicating mélange of characters, some of whom became heroes while others eventually became, and still remain, friends. Many life lessons can be learned on a racetrack along with many tricks of the trade.

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When, for example, the Quartet bet was first introduced, there were times when the first four runners crossed the line in Indian file with almost two lengths separating each horse, so there would be absolutely no margin for error when it came to guaranteeing the result.

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RINGING IN THOSE CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES

By Hans Ebert

When even we get bored of banging on and on about the same thing, which, in a nutshell is that racing in Australia has various leadership problems, with no one on the horizon to help pull things out of the quagmire of deceit, cheats, mistakes, U-turns, vindictiveness, censorship, control, and self-serving agendas, it’s time to take time out, and ask, Is it all worth it? How many ways can you say the same thing before it all dissipates into that void of nothingness, and the lonely sound of one hand clapping?

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Racing administrators looking after the interests of its “participants”? Please. Everyone in all those exalted positions of power- key word that- power- are only looking out for número uno. Are they wrong to do this? Let’s get honest here: If it were you, would you do the same? Probably? Yeah? Nah? Nirvanamind. Power doesn’t just corrupt. Power creates more power. And lusting after more and more power becomes an obsession. And not a magnificent obsession either, but a rabid, cockeyed addiction.

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No amount of furiously frustrated tweeting is going to change a thing, because those with the power to change things are not listening. They don’t want change. Change is their enemy. It might disrupt their well-planned exits and retirement plans. Change can be put on hold, or, worse still, can be reversed and the past reprised. The peasants will never storm Le Bastille because they have no battering rams. Only Twitter. Does Tabcorp, for example, want to improve its product? When a monopoly, lethargy sets in and Okay, or even Not Okay is good enough. Do corporate “pow wows” change a thing? It’s just lukewarm waffle served up when the natives start to get restless.

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So what’s the solution? There is none. Not right now, anyway- and not one in the near foreseeable future. One either packs it in and says, Why bother? And for what? Or else tows the corporate line, and to paraphrase Bob Dylan, doesn’t criticise even though you understand everything and more and what’s been swept under the carpet.

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Posted in Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, Macau Jockey Club | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

THE HAPPY WEDNESDAY BRAND: THE HKJC GETS THE HEARTS OF MILLENNIALS RACING

By Hans Ebert

It’s easy enough to say: Happy Wednesday. Add to that Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong. But how the HKJC created this experience for customers- and just what an entertaining experience it is- would be short-changed if confined only to the racing pages of newspapers. It deserves and needs to be known to as wide a mainstream market as possible, in Hong Kong and overseas, using what was once called “trade and consumer advertising”, and are today all the delivery platforms that make up social media. The Happy Wednesday brand should be a magnet for advertisers wishing to communicate to a captive audience of millennials and friends of friends of friends of millennials.

Happy Wednesday is a brand and game changer in a sport still banging on the door to be allowed in with all the other big boys and girls of sports entertainment- football, tennis, cricket, golf, basketball.

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Nowhere else in the world can there be anything close to a Happy Wednesday at the horse races. It almost redefines the sport by making it appealing and attractive to an entire generation who have been ignored, or else led to believe that horse racing is something irrelevant and belonging to the past, and a previous generation interested in a sport saddled by those words called “gambling” and “betting”. But attend a Happy Wednesday night at Happy Valley Racecourse, and what you have is an incredible melting pot of nationalities- young, fashionable people- taking it all in- the racing, all the activities, all the ‘live’ music in the Beer Garden of this giant outdoor “club” located smack dab in the middle of the neighbouring skyscrapers. It’s all a bit like a cross between a happy Gotham City that’s somehow met the positivity of that Field Of Dreams. Someone built it and they came. And keep coming in the thousands.

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Posted in brett prebble, DOUGLAS WHYTE, HAPPY WEDNESDAY, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, JOAO MOREIRA, The horse racing industry, zac purton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE FUGLY ISSUE

By Keyser Soze

IS RACING IN AUSTRALIA CAPABLE OF REINVENTING ITSELF?

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Simply NO. The evidence in the “form guide’ suggests the odds of reinventing itself to expectations of a very much more demanding and unforgiving demographic in today’s socio-economic jungle are as distant as from where we are to Land’s End.

Whilst every other sport – from the larger mainstream to the minnows- have consciously succeeded in challenging themselves and reinvented their appeal and offerings, racing does not know how to extricate itself from the time warp which it has entrapped itself in, to its own detriment.

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The recent news that the AFL is about to launch its own version of 22/20 cricket or rugby sevens – a shortened and faster version of Aussie Rules called AFL X, should send shivers down the spines of every racing administrator in Australia. That is unless they are still hibernating in their purpose-built igloos.

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AFL X will take Aussie Rules fans and fanatics into a unique state of nirvana, satisfying their craving and hunger for their sport to extend it’s annual seasonal shelf life beyond the traditional six months. AFL X could well be the nail in racing’s coffin in the football crazy states of Victoria, West Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Remember Tasmania? It still supposedly has a racing industry. And with the inroads that the AFL is making in New South Wales, Australians will most certainly vote with their feet as they have done with 20/20 cricket and embrace the hybrid Aussie Rules format.

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Posted in Australian horse racing industry, BLACK CAVIAR, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, JOAO MOREIRA, NASH RAWILLER, The horse racing industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHY TABCORP DESERVES TO COP IT

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Technology is a wonderful addition to lives and to different industries and companies- so long as one knows how to use it. And it appears that Tabcorp are still grappling with the very basics. We have no idea how many people they have manning their telephones, but it’s painfully obvious that they’re woefully understaffed. Their current staff- usually, some very lovely ladies doing their best- deserve a bonus for hanging in there under what must be very trying conditions.

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Especially when trying to place a bet on the weekend on a city race in Victoria, the odds are that you will be put on hold for so long that you’ll never get on. This problem persists even on mundane weekday meetings. There’s then the inordinate amount of time taken for winning bets to be paid into accounts and a snail’s pace when it comes to the flow of information. On Wednesday, customers knew that the Morphetville meeting had been abandoned after race two before the phone operators at Tabcorp. Please.

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Add to these Fawlty Towers, their “revolutionary” voice-activated programme to take bets, especially early on a Sunday, seems to have been developed to test a caller’s patience. Speaking to a recorded message that doesn’t understand what you’re saying isn’t exactly fun. It’s bloody irritating- more so when when you haven’t got on and it turns out to be a winning bet.

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Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

RACING IN KOREA: A GANGNAM STYLE INTERNATIONAL SURPRISE

By Hans Ebert

After the facile win of Hong Kong’s eight-year-old dirt specialist Super Jockey last weekend in the inaugural running of the US $700,000 Group 1 Korean Sprint, one cannot help but think that this could be the the start of a beautiful friendship and greater “diplomatic” racing ties between the HKJC and the Korea Racing Authority (KRA).

HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, pictured below, wasn’t making a token gesture by attending the event. If betting on it, we’d say he was endorsing, supporting and cementing a partnership with the KRA with an eye towards the future.

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As for the win of Super Jockey, ridden with supreme confidence by the very popular Mauritian Magician Karis Teetan, the Tony Millard-trained galloper was in a class of his own. In fact, Teetan, now known as Seoul Brother Number 1, had to look over his shoulder a number of times to see where the rest of the field was. Nowhere in sight, baby.

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Posted in Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, The horse racing industry, WINFRIED ENGELBRECHT-BRESGES | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WE’RE HAVING A HAPPY WEDNESDAY” SINGS MELBOURNE-BASED JIMMY CUPPLES

Each new racing season, the HKJC’s successful Happy Wednesday brand that comes alive at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong keeps evolving. This season will be no exception with a new song especially composed and recorded for these Happy Wednesday nights. But this new track is different in that it was recorded in Melbourne and features session singer and recent contestant on The Voice Australia Jimmy Cupples, pictured below.

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Written and produced by music executive Hans Ebert, and part of the Happy Wednesday creative and marketing team, the reason for recording in Melbourne was quite simple: “Though Hong Kong has some technically good musicians and a handful of good performers, there’s not really an abundance of original recording talent”, explains Ebert, below in the studios with Cupples and producer/engineer Trevor “The Wizard” Carter.

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Posted in HAPPY WEDNESDAY, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE NO LAUGHING MATTER ISSUE

By Keyser Soze

CLEAR UP THE DAVID MOODIE ALLEGATIONS. PLEASE.

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Can the albatross hanging around the neck of Australian racing from the spate of cobalt positives get any murkier? If the scandals in NSW, which claimed the training careers of Darren Smith and Sam Kavanagh, and led to lengthy bans on veterinarian Tom Brennan and embroiled and derailed the careers of many others across a variety of sections of the NSW and Australian racing fraternity, were not enough, then the allegations concerning the leaking of information by Racing Victoria Chairman David Moodie in last Saturday’s Herald Sun, surely has turned the murky world of Victorian racing murkier.

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The allegation was contained in a story by racing journalist Daryl Timms and published in the Herald Sun newspaper last Saturday, with the headline “Spilling the Beans – Moodie leaked test results claim”. The headline and story refer to an allegation raised at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) by counsel for trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh that Moodie had told trainer Peter Moody of the positive tests returned by horses trained by Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh before the two trainers had been informed by Stewards. The stewards informed the two trainers of the positives the next morning.

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According to Timms: “After being told by Moodie (David)), it is claimed Moody (Peter) phoned O’Brien to tell him of his cobalt positives”. Timms also states that: “It is believed Stewards discovered Moodie’s phone call to Moody and the subsequent calls to the Flemington trainers when they examined mobile phone records as part of their probe into the positive urine samples”.

Timms further states that the Racing Victoria Integrity Council did not recommend action against Moodie, and neither did the Board of Racing Victoria which “considered the matter and did not censure him”.

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Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, Racing NSW, The horse racing industry, Victorian Racing Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA: AN OXYMORON?

By Hans Ebert

Could it really be happening? Might this actually be good for the perception and future of horse racing? Could this separate the wheat from the chaff? Freedom of speech aside, might this help rein in the negativity? Could this see the creative envelope being pushed when it comes to marketing the sport to a younger and new customer demographic? For all the talk of “customer engagement”, could this open the minds of hardcore racing executives to how social media can be a powerful marketing tool and not 140 words or less of clutter and Corporate Speak ignored by many? Could this help racing clubs understand that insular thinking only leads to navel gazing and nothing to do with expanding their current customer base- and attracting new players like sponsors with strong databases to the sport?

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A media analyst with a major music company and head of one of the biggest international social media agencies were sharing their thoughts with us regarding digital marketing, how to possibly reach millennials, and, mainly, the present and future of  Twitter- and how, according to their numbers and customer research, its popularity is on the wane- and how, as a marketing tool, this social media platform has become clutter that is either ignored or else “liked” and “retweeted” almost outta habit. It’s click bait.

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If true- and why not?- it’s certain to cause celebration amongst some we know in horse racing who refuse to “engage” or be part of the racing twitterverse, which, to them, is rampant with “bottom feeders”. Maybe. We just have a problem with those who don’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your”, the really bad grammar, the transparent serial self-promoters, and the roaring silence when it comes to creativity. Throw in the fawning jockey groupies, the politics, the roadblocks and unblocked, and the regular army of alarmists and conspiracy theorists, something seemingly very much in the DNA of the Australian racing industry. It’s not a good look to other racing jurisdictions on the outside looking in. Even if true, the constant updates on all things negative paints an extremely off-putting picture of the sport. Those who might think they’re saving horse racing are actually stabbing it with their steely knives and trying to kill the beast- and the hand that feeds them.

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Whatever happened to marketing the FUN of horse racing? The Cobalt Blues has become more tedious than In A Gadda Da Vida. It’s horse racing’s Pokeman Go, but not going anywhere. And, let’s face it, whoever “wins”, who’s the big loser? Horse racing. After the final legal decisions have been handed down, what happens next to Fawlty Towers and its bumbling Basils? Where’s all this angst and U-turns and memory lapses and legal technicalities leading to, Manuel?

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INTRODUCING THE FAST TRACK HONG KONG AND LONGINES HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL RACES TRIVIA CHALLENGE!

(Courtesy of www.fasttrack.hk)

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Great prizes to be won!

Join the Fast Track Hong Kong and Longines Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) Trivia Challenge and enjoy the races in style.

The first four readers picked via a Lucky Draw who answer all the questions below correctly will each receive the following:

* A dinner for four at Adrenaline on Longines Hong Kong International Jockey’s Championships (HKIJC) night(December 7)

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* In addition to the above, a lunch for four at Hay Market in Shatin on Longines Hong Kong International Races(HKIR) day(December 11).

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Entries should be sent to hkir@fasttrack.hk.
The competition closes on 9th Oct 2016.

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Posted in DOUGLAS WHYTE, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, JOHN MOORE, JOHN SIZE, www.fasttrack.hk | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment