By Hans Ebert

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It was so cold- the coldest day in Hong Kong in sixty years- Zac Purton, who nearly decided to call it a day after the second race, wore a black balaclava the whole day to keep the bitter wind away. He might have looked like Sherif Ali from Lawrence Of Arabia, but the Zac Attack, who loathes the cold, wasn’t worried about what the Fashion Police might have thought. He just wanted to get the day over and done with- and which he did in great style. He might have even started a new trend.

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Despite the ill wind freezing up his face, it wasn’t enough to deny the jockey riding a magnificent treble- his winning ride on the very impressive Line Seeker was a classic- and running away with the Jockey Challenge.

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What happened to Joao Moreira? Even the Magic Man has an Achilles heel: Cold weather. Unbelievable as it might seem, the brilliant Brazilian, who has ridden trebles, quartets and quintets with almost monotonous regularity, drew a blank with six favourites- four of them probably false favourites- going down the gurgler. Mr Freeze had got to him.

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Word is that he was seen after the last race had been run soaking his legs with his boots on in a basin of boiling hot water that had a fellow jockey- no prizes for guessing who- chiding him with a good natured, “I KNEW there was a chink in your armour! I hope this cold weather continues for the whole season!”

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Well, it won’t, and though one Brazilian was longing for the sun, another Brazilian- Silvestre de Sousa was enjoying his day in the sun by riding a double- and persuaded to extend his short stint in Hong Kong. De Sousa has now ridden a winner at the six meetings he has competed in, and this strike rate hardly looks like slowing down. Plus, as far as several passionate female racing fans are concerned, there’s another Brazilian pin up rider to cheer on.

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Also chipping in with a double- something like a 1400 to 1 double- was the ever-competitive Neil Callan. Try and knock him down through suspensions and injuries, and he bounces back more determined than ever to make a point. The point? He’s a stayer.

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But the star of this particular greatest show on turf at Shatin on Sunday was the team of John Size and Ryan Moore. While former champion jockey and Sydney-based trainer, Gary Moore was in town to be with “Brother John” now that blood is thicker than water once again, and happy to tell anyone within earshot that Werther, a galloper he apparently purchased for connections in Hong Kong, would win easily- and it should have won, and will win many of the upcoming big races- and with most thinking this year’s Classic Mile would be a stroll down the Yellow Brick Road for Thewizardofoz, Sun Jewellery was nicely under radars and won at 9 to 1. And what a winning ride it was by Ryan Moore- a master class in brilliant tactics and competitive riding by the World’s Best Jockey of 2015. Not known for his oratory skills, Moore let his incredible riding skills do all the talking.

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Not even drawn barrier 14 and carrying topweight were enough to stop Ryan Moore having Sun Jewellery perfectly placed and able to withstand the finish of Werther, which he had under lock and key, until Hugh Bowman, who had scored earlier on the John Moore debutant Team Sweet, finally saw daylight and an escape clause. It hardly ever happens, but on this occasion, Hughie Bowman was out-ridden, fair and square. That’s racing.

Ryan Moore, de Sousa, Bowman, Purton, Callan, even a winless Moreira- it couldn’t get any better until one remembers the sheer joy on the face of local rider Alvin Ng after bringing home Brilliant Dream at over 120 to 1.

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The win might have frozen the smiles of the winning connections and trainer Dennis Yip- the usual winning photo celebrations were extremely short and sparsely attended- but for Ng, back after a lengthy suspension. and not exactly a jockey with a great win record, it was his day to enjoy the limelight with the big boys.

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It was his Big Day Out and Brilliant Dream, though a nightmare result for most punters, is now part of Hong Kong Classic Mile day. This, too, is racing- these wins not going according to script- and these are also what should be marketed. They might not be as important or as worthy of praise as Ryan Moore’s brilliance on Sun Jewellery, but these cameos, and wins at huge prices, appeal to those racing fans living for that big win. It offers hope and keeps the dream alive- that brilliant dream.

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What must also be remembered is how closely intertwined horse racing is with life in Hong Kong. The city might not have the onslaught of racing every day, but the two meetings a week are, to many, a welcome respite from the helter skelter pace of Hong Kong life.

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This is also a city undergoing incredible social and political change- everything from Occupy Central which morphed into the Umbrella Movement to spiralling rents, a retail sector under siege, and, like the rest of the world, a volatile stock market.

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Horse racing with its racing heroes and success stories offer that something called Hope- that there’s always a next time.

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In many ways, horse racing gives Hong Kong something to still cheer about. And if that’s not a marketable theme line, what is?

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