When turnover is up by over a Big Whoppering 11%, but attendance is down and your two main draw cards- Zachariah “Zeek” The Kid and Douglas “Whytey” Whyte aka Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid- are missing in action through suspensions which is what happened at Shatin on Sunday, it says many things.

The most important one is that Hong Kong punters love the races and love to have a bet as much as they love to play the stock market or invest in property.

It’s all a fun game of Risk where the stakes are high and the returns can be huge with so many chasing after that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or just going to pot.

It’s all a sight to behold kinda like The Rocky Horror Show, but without the music and trannies.

Sure, draw cards are great for the sport and hype, but they are not the be-all and end-all and racing at Shatin last weekend proved this.

The real drawcard is simply having a race meeting which is why when a racing season ends, Hong Kong goes into hibernation and punters squirrel away their nuts until September and the new racing season starts up. It’s another sight to behold- punters and their nuts.

Meanwhile, with all the betting shops around town, online betting, telebetting and cross-betting at Happy Valley, attendance figures can fluctuate, but turnover can continue to rise.

It’s demand and supply, demand and supply unlike the over-supply of bars and restaurants popping up like zits on a teenager’s face and waiting to be popped by escalating rents and Hong Kong’s whorehouse of greedy landlords.

With this in mind, if the HKJC, one area I would look at more closely is cross-betting at Happy Valley which, personally speaking, is being kinda underrated or neglected.

Cross-betting can be as big as cross-dressing at a gay soirée in the bowels of Hong Kong where the closets are finally pried open and playing it straight can finally make a u-turn.

If there is a Happy Wednesday, why not a Happy Saturday or Happy Sunday, especially as far as the newbie punter is concerned? And here, I am not talking just about the Soho Junction crowd who can only afford a few beers and a burger and a $500 punt.

It takes all kinds of those new to racing and taking baby steps as there are also the rookie punters who drive Lamborghini’s and are as classy as Francesca Cumani on a hot summer’s day.

Happy Valley can become a hotbed (Hmmmm) of activity for these rookies without the horrors of coming face to face with some of those dry mouths and foul fish breath of hardcore punters at hectic Shatin who hit that phase when they don’t know if they’re winning or losing or understanding right from left as they attack those betting counters for a last minute bet.

It’s another sight to behold and not unlike a scene from The Birds. It’s a murder of crows and the sounds can be fucking scary.

Cut to a Sunday afternoon in Hong Kong where there’s nothing much else to do other than have a lunch or go to a beach or catch a movie. Shopping is like watching The Birds again, especially if surrounded by those gangs of thousands from the Mainland who shop till they drop. Literally.

So, what’s there to do other than sleep in?

Well, there’s the convenience of Happy Valley on the weekend and with the racecourse being around ten minutes from everywhere.

I brought a group of racing newbies to Happy Valley on Sunday. None even knew cross-betting existed. I had forgotten about it until having been forced to do something that day other than stay in and watch the races on television.

I’m glad I was asked to get off my arse and get some fresh air and hook up with a few mates. It was a really pleasant afternoon where we could walk around, had all the time in the world to make bets and watch the races on the Diamondvision screen with around 5000 other people.

It also gave the newbies ten races to understand and practice their betting techniques and made me think how a Happy Sunday could work: ‘Live’ music and stopping only when the races were being run; Happy Sunday brunches and lunches at The Gallery and Adrenaline and where and when Racing Specialists are needed. Newbies, too, have a fear of looking like gormless knobs about the great unknown of how to understand this sport called racing.

To many, it’s more complicated than cricket and with an lbw easier to understand than betting a six up. But away from the glare of being put under the Newbie Spotlight, the fear of flying with Erica Jung and racing dissipates.

Tonight at Happy Valley, we see the running of the only Group race run at the city track and where, as usual, John Moore has entered his usual army of runners- four in all- and which is par for the course and follows the usual mantra of The Moore The Merrier.

What IS surprising here is that Brett Prebble is not on any of them. He rides Caspar Fownes’ Helene Spirit. Possibly unable to take it any Moore from a very successful trainer but who has always had a wavering and quivering and even quirky relationship with his jockeys, Prebble has no rides for the stable tonight.

With Little Timmy Clark, who has done very well for “Jim Dandy” with the crumbs tossed to him seemingly having also been axed other than riding Sea Diamond, one has to wonder who Moore will rely on once Neil Callan leaves town? Marwing? Mosse? Or will he try to retain James McDonald or the Huge Bowman? And if he fails? Do you really care?

As for the racing, it’s a very good card for Happy Valley though, again, do the masses care? Nah, they just want some winners- same as me and where I shall be backing Derek KC Leung in the Jockeys Challenge who can score points with Shanghai Pioneer (race 1), Make It (race 4), Circuit Star (race 6) and Same World for John Moore in the January Cup where it, Irian and Helene Spirit look the main chances.

One thing that’s laughable are the overnight odds for some of the horses like 2 to 1 for Circuit Star and 1.8 for Good Luck Win in the last to be ridden by the ten pound claimer Dickie Lui who is no Tegan Harrison or John Kissick, star apprentices in Oz right now. 1.8 for a Dickie Lui ride??? Surely, that’s someone joking around with the overnight odds?

Of course with only 105 pounds to carry, Good Luck Win can lead all the way, but “Louie” Lui’s navigation skills still have a huge L sign to them.

Horses I like on an e/w basis and enough to buy me a few papadums and samosas which are different to Samoans: ALWAYS SOMETHING, MAKE IT, VICTORY GENERAL, IRIAN, ENTHUSING and possibly MEDALLIST on which David Hall slaps the blinkers on for the first time and Brett Prebble rides.

All that gives me the feeling of having had a fiery chicken vindaloo and with loo being the key word.

The Guru