WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO GO IN HONG KONG: OUR GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF 2016 LONGINES #HKIR WEEK (PART 5)

Some like it hot, some like it hotter, and some years ago, the most popular restaurant for spicy Sichuan cuisine was the Red Pepper in Causeway Bay.

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It was certainly a favourite with those over for the International Races as the reviews were good- hot reviews- and with many staying at the Grand Hyatt, the restaurant was just a convenient ten minute walk away from the hotel. It still is.

Though the Red Pepper remains a favourite, especially with tourists and newcomers to Hong Kong, a plethora of Sichuan restaurants have opened since. Sadly, most are more of the same, which is why we always settle for Manchu China, formerly Bistro Manchu, and mentioned here several times before. So why stop now…

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Though the cuisine is Manchurian, there’s a distinct Sichuan flavour to the dishes. Just ask Tommy, the flamboyant and absolutely candid Manager, to tell you what’s REALLY good and let the chef know that you’re fearless when it comes to attacking spicy food.

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WILL CASPAR FOWNES PROVE TO BE THE KING MAKER ON DECEMBER 7 AT HAPPY VALLEY #HKIR

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

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While being crowned King Of The Valley on December 7 at Happy Valley at the end of the Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Competition looks skewed towards the home team comprising Joao Moreira and Zac Purton, who definitely know how to ride the idiosyncratic track, the Joker in the pack is trainer Caspar Fownes.

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If anyone wishes to talk about the longtime “King Of The Valley”, it’s The Casbah. How it’s happened remains a mystery, but for many years now, this trainer’s runners have ruled Happy Valley. Sure, as he’s quick to point out, he’s no one trick pony, and his record of wins at Shatin are almost on equal footing with his successes on the tight city track- really?- but when local racing fans look at any Happy Valley race card, one of the first things they do is to look at the rides of Moreira and the runners sent out by The Casbah. And if Moreira is on a Fownes horse racing in Class 5, well, it’s Fill Up Time at the old chuck wagon.

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WORTH REVISITING AS #HKIR NEARS: TONY CRUZ: THE BRUCE LEE OF HONG KONG RACING

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

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When John Hardie wrote that “Tony Cruz Is Not The Greatest Thing Since Fried Rice”, and how the then-young Champion jockey of Hong Kong had an apparent penchant for “fast cars, fast women and the fast life”, it caused more ripples than the city’s Fragrant Harbour had seen since rocked and rolled by the worst typhoon.

Hardie was a peculiar man- a surly Australian racing journalist who was angry with the world, and very obviously, a racist, who worked for the STAR newspaper in Hong Kong.

He almost seemed the hired PR man for fellow Aussies George Moore, and his jockey son Gary Moore, Tony Cruz’s main rival in the jockey ranks, but a good friend off the track, both being kids who were tasting the high life and champagne supernova of success at a very young age.

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WORTH REVISITING AS #HKIR NEARS: SILENT WITNESS: LIVING LEGEND

By Hans Ebert

“Have you seen the size of his nostrils? I remember (trainer) Tony Millard’s father telling me that you can tell a good horse by the size of their nostrils. It gives them that extra oxygen, and, man, he’s got huge nostrils.”

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Felix Coetzee is talking about Silent Witness, the champion Hong Kong sprinter in 2003, 2004, 2005, and Time Magazine’s 100 Most Interesting People Of 2004 who the great South African rider partnered for every one of his seventeen wins including taking out The Japan Sprint Stakes in 2005.

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“The Cat” had just been shown a picture of his old mate, now at the wonderful Living Legends equine retirement home, and words are hard to find to describe just how much this horse means to Coetzee, a true horseman and the most inquisitive person I know when it comes to understanding the psychology of our equine friends and how to get the most of the young Hong Kong apprentices he’s mentoring these days.

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But talk to “The Cat” and the conversation can’t help but get back to the Tony Cruz-trained and Archie and Betty Da Silva owned Silent Witness, the magic and miracle horse that shone a positive light on Hong Kong when the city was under the very dark cloud of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis.

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WORTH REVISITING AS #HKIR NEARS: LONGINES #HKIR: MADE IN HONG KONG AND PRIDE IN OWNERSHIP

By Hans Ebert

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It’s been part of Hong Kong since what were humble beginnings starting with the annual Invitational Races between Singapore and Hong Kong and when the Lion City’s Colonial Chief, trained by the legend that was Ivan Allan and ridden by Tony Cruz was the star of the show. This was in 1989.

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But this had to evolve into something bigger and better. It did when then-Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the late Alan Li, gave an idea by Executive Director of Racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges “a little nudge” and the green light. The idea was to make racing in Hong Kong more international- and also convince many local owners to be part of this movement towards quality and not quantity when it came to the purchase of equine talent. It created a domino effect. It also created one of the very few Made In Hong Kong products and what is known today as the Longines-sponsored Hong Kong International Races (HKIR)

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Li, a passionate horse racing man and “Chinoise Francophile”, who understood the wants and needs of the well-travelled racing community and possessed one of the best roller decks containing a Who’s Who of the sport in France, and Engelbrecht-Bresges, now CEO of the HKJC, wanted to see racing in this city become the centre- the magnet- that brings the world of racing together. It was about moving the chess pieces from being invitational races where the foreign raiders came, plundered and left to the introduction of international races with bigger prize money, better quality horsepower purchased by local owners and which created a much more level playing field that, simply put, raised the standard of racing in Hong Kong.

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WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO GO IN HONG KONG: OUR GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF 2016 LONGINES #HKIR WEEK (PART 4)

Kowloon. What can we say about Kowloon? Not much really other than to dodge the touts selling this and that and fake everything down Nathan Road. And no matter what anyone tells you, you’re not going to find the best Indian curries in Chungking Mansions- “mansions” being a rather odd term to name a cheap dive for backpackers and shysters from the sub-continent and various parts of Africa- Gambia being their most popular last port of call. Some tourists love the multi cultural aspects of the building that’s a maze, but to longtime Hong Kong residents, Chungking Mansions was a dump and still is a dump.

Kowloon is like this strange other world to those who live on Hong Kong side. It’s certainly not what it once was and when this was where all the action happened and many were singing, Hey, Big Spender.

These were during the days when upmarket karaoke and escort clubs were where many of us concluded huge business deals before partying like it was 1999. Maybe it was 1999, but who’s counting? It was nightly parties with Eastern European beauties and visiting celebrities like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell who had come to see the freak show, and why the very popular- and as Donald Trump would say, HUUUUGE- Club Volvo, later renamed Club BBoss, had a gold Rolls Royce indoors to drive customers around. Kowloon really was the place to go. And many jockeys, trainers and owners were regulars of Club Volvo and Club BBoss, both owned by a horse owner and huge punter. Lovely man and extremely generous.

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OUR HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL RACES TOP 10

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

Let’s face it, throughout the world, those presentation ceremonies at every race meeting are stiff, dour affairs that are photo opportunities for the media and interesting to only those involved. The racing fans, meanwhile, have scattered and are already working out who might win the next race. If they were busy doing this at Shatin on Sunday when nothing went according to plan and tips and advice from the pundits crashed and burned, they must be still banging their heads on the wall. They would have been better off watching the presentation ceremonies and taking some bets on whether the female emcee might actually veer from the script and not ask everyone for a “happy photo”. Are we back in kindergarten? Seriously.

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Yet, these presentation ceremonies continue year in and year out with some police band striking up a brassy outta tune interpretation of something like Queen’s “We Are The Champions” just to prove that Freddie is really dead.

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With the Hong Kong International Races next month bringing together a fantastic array of equine and human riding talent, and what promises to be some brilliant horse racing, all this will be halted for around ten minutes after each major race for those mannequin-like ceremonies accompanied by a band wheezing through various national anthems. And though we would dearly love to see Hong Kong win at least one of these trophies, the thought of hearing a brassy version of the Chinese national anthem- not the most melodic of musical pieces- will have people like us running for cover and away from an attack of angry birds.

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YOUR FAST TRACK GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF HONG KONG DURING #HKIR WEEK (PART 3)

Like everywhere else in the world, Hong Kong has become far more health conscious with more and more health food stores opening up along with latest trend among restaurants being to serve organic foods- at one of these establishments recently, we were asked by a waiter if we wished to know more about “orgasmic food”- and, of course, abs and abs of fitness centres.

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The fitness business took a bad knock to their image, however, when one of the most well-known chains went belly up leaving members with, basically, a bar with no beer, or in this instance, a membership to nothing. Not even one barbell. To prove their fitness, they’d done a runner.

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What’s surprising is how long this particular fitness centre not only survived, but actually expanded its business. It was a scam from the start. Us? Give us Gao’s Foot Massage parlour on Caine Road every day of the week. It’s really the cure-all for everything.

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Having said this, it might be too tight a schedule to squeeze this in, but a few lady friends we know say that joining Barre 2 Barre has been a real life changer. And if you ask them if this is another fitness centre, be prepared to be clobbered.

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DOUGLAS WHYTE: FULL STEAM AHEAD IN THE GROUP 1 RAILWAY STAKES IN PERTH

By Hans Ebert

The big news for Hong Kong racing fans so far this week was Douglas Whyte leading all the way to land the Group 1 Railway Stakes in Perth yesterday- the second time he’s won a Group 1 race in Western Australia. The first win was aboard Moriarty in the Kingston Town Classic. It was masterful ride yesterday from someone who takes everything that comes his way in stride.

Last year, almost everyone was writing him off as Yesterday’s Man- a jockey, who, despite winning thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Jockey Premierships, always conducting himself as the consummate professional that he is and a champion ambassador for Hong Kong racing, not only had to endure a season where he lost the support of many stables he had helped to get them to where they are today, he also had to face barracking and the usual chorus of “Diiiius” from the local peanut gallery. But, as Michelle Obama recently said, “When they aim low, you aim high”, and this season one is seeing an even more fiercely determined Douglas Whyte- determined to prove his knockers wrong, but probably also determined to convince himself that though the past has come and gone, no one, not even Joao Moreira can take away from what he has accomplished in Hong Kong, and that he still has that hunger to win- and all the experience and guile and talent to compete with the best.

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JIMMY “THE VOICE” CUPPLES ADDS TO THE EXCITEMENT OF LONGINES HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL RACES

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He’s the voice behind the latest theme song for Happy Wednesday titled “We’re Having A Happy Wednesday”.

He’s also the voice behind “We’re All Here Together”, an anthemic song about racing and, especially, the Hong Kong International Races, and another original written by music executive Hans Ebert and producer/engineer Trevor Carter, co-owner of Studio 52 in Melbourne, where the recordings were produced.

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And now the voice behind these recordings- Melbourne-based Jimmy Cupples- will perform ‘live’ in Hong Kong at Happy Valley on December 7, the night of the 2016 Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Championship that will see some of the best riders in the world compete including Ryan Moore, voted the Best Jockey In The World, Australia’s Hugh Bowman and Hong Kong’s globetrotting Magic Man Joao Moreira.

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