A TRIP THROUGH RACING’S FIELD OF DREAMS
May 25, 2018
Hans Ebert (Hans-Ebert.com)
It’s not so much that he’s lost his mojo, but realising that even magic men run out of tricks or that others learn new ones which work better.
Happy Valley has never been happy hunting grounds for Joao Moreira and he’ll be the first to admit it. And though he rode a double, at least to someone who’s written about him being “poetry in motion” and “being one with the horse”, what at least I saw on Happy Wednesday looked like a desperate chihuahua zig zagging all over the place and getting two winners, but, overall, looking nothing out of the ordinary. He must have been having an off day.
Frankly, the winning rides by Douglas Whyte and Olivier Doleuze that night oozed more class and quiet confidence. Over the past few meetings, what cannot be ignored is the return of that old Whyte magic.
Experience can’t be taught and the great South African rider with a legacy that includes winning the Hong Kong Jockey Premiership for thirteen consecutive years and a record that will never be broken is riding with all the guile and skill that made him a champion.
Though once a close friend, but today more of an acquaintance on Twitter as time and circumstances change everyone, one cannot ignore his dedication, focus and professionalism. It’s as if he’s turned back the hands of time and is riding with a new-found confidence and working to a timeline and an agenda.
His winning rides on Star Shine (輝煌星) over the weekend and All You Need (快利) on Wednesday were vintage Douglas Whyte. How much did he have to do with fine-tuning these horses for their races? Some questions don’t need answers. And then there’s the new Butch and Sundance of Hong Kong racing- Olivier Doleuze and John Size.
We all love comeback stories, and this one is very special- a one-time extremely good rider, but lost without any support other than from old friends Michael Chang and Caspar Fownes. There’s support and then there’s winning Group 1 support. What John Size did was provide the affable Frenchman with the latter.
Ten of Olivier Doleuze’s thirteen wins this season have been for John Size including that memorable Group 1 win aboard DB Pin (翩翩). Winning Le French May Trophy on Wednesday aboard Prawn Baba (哈蝦巴爸) was another chapter in this quite incredible success story between rider and trainer.
The booking of Doleuze for the ride also spoke volumes about how John Size goes about managing his stable- wisely purchasing horses for his owners, and the respect he commands from his owners. No one tells John Size who they want to ride their horses. He’s the trainer and what Size says matters.
Why and how does he decide to offer Olivier Delouze these winning rides? Trust is the easy answer. There must be more. And while he’s apparently completely shut the door on his longtime successful partnership with Douglas Whyte, other than his total confidence in Joao Moreira as his Go To rider, John Size has thrown his considerable support behind Brett Prebble, Matthew Chadwick, Nash Rawiller, and Karis Teetan when they’ve needed it most, and after a very very long wait, finally offering Zac Purton a ride- a Derby winning ride aboard Luger (戰利品).
The association with the Zac Attack is building. It will be interesting how far it travels and with the popular Australian hoop in demand by every stable.
As for John Size, he’s also started “test driving” a few very fortunate apprentices by offering them rides though continuing to shy away from not have any indentured to his stable. Who needs to babysit more Smurfs when there are owners to please and winners to train?
So while the Joao Zac Joao Zac Joao Show swings this way and that with some of us not really interested in the outcome, we do enjoy the sideshows, the games behind the big business, knowing the genuine articles from the disingenuous ones and always looking out for número uno.
Away from the horse racing, but still part of the on course atmosphere is Kat Coetzee, daughter of one of the greatest jockeys to ride in Hong Kong in Felix Coetzee, onstage in the Beer Garden on a Happy Wednesday and rocking out about having a Zac Attack and the Karismatic one.
There’s the very beautiful and fashionable Hannah Butler, girlfriend of jockey Chad Schofield, and now very much part of the Happy Wednesday family.
At Adrenaline, Jennifer Palor takes some important steps towards furthering her career as a singer with an international musical message about female empowerment.
Sure, horse racing is about great athletes who never get the recognition of a Ronaldo or a Federer or a Messi. Yes, it’s about the horse. It’s about the thrill of winning. It’s about choosing the right horse to win. But in this constantly changing world offering up a buffet of choices to millennials and post millennials, and every industry competing for the same consumer dollar, horse racing can’t keep singing the same song. It needs to evolve.
It’s about partnerships with NON racing brands to broaden that consumer base through THEIR data bases. It’s about making the on-course experience a really FUN one. A Must See. A tweet from a racing club isn’t going to do it.
Have the dedicated racing channels and racing content and racing pages for that important loyal and captive market. But it’s coming up to 2019 and the media landscape is changing every day. How to effectively use it is something that needs to come with the territory.
In a city like Hong Kong, it’s about offering an enticing invitation to those who might not even understand the basics of horse racing the chance to enjoy and participate in the best international racing in the world in the most international city in the world twice a week.
It’s an invitation to get to know the races, the riders. To soak in the atmosphere. To communicate the significance of the endorsements for Hong Kong racing from TripAdvisor.
There’s a movie or a musical or both in all of this and with the most exciting city as the backdrop- a trippy story of twists and turns taking place on a particular Happy Wednesday night linked by music which takes audiences on a magical journey seen through a man child with kaleidoscope eyes as he floats down that river, and introduces a cast of characters that would make the worlds of Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll and Quentin Tarantino look and sound dull.
It’s a journey through the world of horse racing’s very own field of dreams…