t 0

While one door closes- like this Hong Kong racing season, another door opens, and popular Sydney-based jockey Sam Clipperton, below, has been given a great opportunity to further his career by riding on the world stage that is Hong Kong next season. Here’s wishing him well.

10jul 1

There are, of course, the usual qualms that he’s “too young” to be riding in Hong Kong, but how old is not too young enough? Plus, young guns like Tye Angland, Damian Lane, and, especially, Chad Schofield have equipped themselves very well here. Given the opportunities, so will Sam Clipperton, who comes up here with the reputation of being a well-mannered, talented and terrific fella. He’s said to be extremely hard working, and, hopefully, this will lead to a quick winner and the chance to prove himself to those who matter- owners. He cannot do this by always riding horses in the lower grades, though, hey, a winner is a winner, and one must start somewhere. Even with a winner in Class 5.

10jul 2bb

There are some expat riders who are glad that it’s the relatively inexperienced Clipperton who’s been licensed, and not the talented, but, for reasons that remain grey, the not very popular Blake Shinn. And being a smart operator, he must surely have done enough reconnaissance work to garner stable support with a riding future in Hong Kong in mind when here for one of the Group races this season.

10jul 2b

Everything pointed to him riding here, but for whatever the reason, this was not to be. Now that this has happened, having a competitive talent like Shinn riding in Hong Kong will probably never happen. Pity. It would have not been unlike throwing another cat like competitive Irishman Neil Callan amongst the pigeons. And though the jockey ranks are again looking decidedly Aussie heavy, something that doesn’t sit well with many local “racing uncles” with long memories, what are the options?

10jul 3

The marquee value English and European jockeys are all under contract, and Hong Kong is not on their radars, so where does one look? To South Africa and S’Manga Khumalo, who’s currently riding in devastating form? But wasn’t he meant to come out here at the start of the season, but for some reason, that bridge was detonated before it even became a pathway?

10jul 4

There’s lightweight Mauritian jockey Nooresh Juglal, described as “the next Joao Moreira”, and who, like the Magic Man, can be poached from Singapore. But this doesn’t look like happening anytime soon- if ever. And then? Nothing much? Like the search for race callers at the start of the season, the riding talent pool available is a little on the thin side. And that’s an understatement.

10jul 5

As for this cute term bandied about called “stable support”, trainers are dependent on owners- and, quite rightly, look out for number one. Owners pay the bills, and they call the shots because, well, duh, it’s their horses and their investments for their business portfolios. A trainer might recommend a jockey to an owner, but, forgetting riding skills, all types of “external influences” come into play- what their friends think about them, what the Chinese racing media is writing about them, that they need to have their heads shaved to get rid of any bad luck that might be dogging them, whether their wife or mistress- and this is no joke- like their face. Yes, face. If I had a dollar for every time a local owner has said, “Maybe he’s an okay rider, but he has an unlucky face”.

10jul 6

No one said life would be easy, and riding in Hong Kong- and being a success at it- is no stroll in the park. To many Hong Kong owners, losing is a novel concept that they have problems bought comprehending. This is true of being in any industry in Hong Kong. And in horse racing, winning is all about “face”. If anyone thinks there’s no competition and incredible jealousies, sometimes going back decades between owners- and owners and their siblings with numerous other business interests and political agendas that spill over way past the racecourse, they’re being naive.

10jul 7

When one understands- really understands- all of this, and the role of oneupmanship involved BEYOND horse racing is when one can succeed in horse racing in Hong Kong. Ask Tony Cruz, ask John Moore or ask Caspar Fownes. Ask barrister Kevin Egan. Ask Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the HKJC. Hong Kong racing is a soap opera, horse opera and Game Of Thrones, all rolled into one.

10jul 8

It’s fascinating stuff and a movie, reality television series and a book, which only a new James Clavell or Hunter S Thompson is capable of writing.

10jul 9b

And so we come to the last race meeting of this season. Looking at the racing, it’s been a fantastic season- the wins of Maurice, Werther, A Shin Hikari, Chautauqua, and, lest we forget, Pakistan Star.

10jul 10

10jul 11

10jul 12

10jul 12b

10jul 13

Add to this list the build up to and the success of the HKIR and all the other Hong Kong Group races. That’s Ethel Merman singing, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. These are the main attractions and they deserve to be presented in the best possible light and be applauded- a season that has been studded with some real gems.

10jul 14

Away from all this are the back stories- the gossip, the rumours, the reminiscing by the city’s racing uncles, the tiresome pontificating by self-styled racing gurus, and the wonderful game of Chinese Whispers, where nothing is ever what it seems.

10jul 15

This is all part and parcel of Hong Kong racing. It’s much much more than jockeys and their purported “Rock star lifestyles”. These are cameo roles in the Walk Of Life- and a Day At The Races. There’s something quite “cinematic” about racing in Hong Kong. Accepting it all with a sense of humour, and never taking one’s self, and others with their transparent politics seriously, is how to get on board and simply enjoy the ride.

RACE 1

Good Method was hardly given the best of rides by Kei Chiong at its last start. The good news is that Zac Purton takes over. The bad news is that it’s drawn barrier 12. Good Method should be in the placings, but these lower class races always throw up a few wobbies. Leave me out of them. There are far better races to take in later on.

10jul 16

Use the time to check out Hay Market, a superb venue located in the Public area of Shatin racecourse, and which offers a terrific view of the racing.

10jul 17

10jul 18

10jul 19

SUGGESTIONS: 3-2-1-4

RACE 2

What? A race where Moreira doesn’t have a ride???

10jul 21

SUGGESTIONS: 6-5-8-9

RACE 3

SUGGESTIONS: 8-9-5-10

RACE 4

The first leg of the First Double Trio where there’s a jackpot of around $1.5 million. After its second at its debut, the logical banker is the John Size-trained D B Pin though logic and racing is an oxymoron.

SUGGESTIONS: (6)-9,11,4,3,10

RACE 5

The second leg of the Double Trio and the first leg of the Triple Trio where there’s also a jackpot. As we all know, looks can be deceiving, but this looks a pretty easy race. Whoops! That’s put the mock on it.

10jul 21b

SUGGESTIONS: 3-7-8-1

RACE 6

The first leg of the Six Up and take Superior Boy out of the race, and it becomes very open. Plus, the last run of Superior Boy was an unconvincing third. The Boy hardly finished off the race with much manly gusto. I would not take him on a win line, and would prefer to go searching for value. Frankly, I wish I could have gone searching for value and found myself here. With Kendall Jenner. Stunning, truly stunning.

10jul 22

SUGGESTIONS: 7-6-10-3

RACE 7

Local jockey Jacky Tong ends his race riding career today, and as when jockeys or trainers have their birthdays or wedding anniversaries etc, it’s the widely held belief amongst local racing uncles that a winner has been set for them. Thank goodness, Neil Callan rode a winner on Wednesday- his birthday.

10jul 23

Will Jacky Tong bow out on a winning note? His ride- Energetic Class- was the overnight favourite, and which is way under the odds. Sure, recent form suggests that the horse can win, but, sad to say, I cannot see things going according to script. It won’t be a fairy tale ending to The Yin Tong Song in what is an extremely tough leg of the Six Up where those in the market look vulnerable.

SUGGESTIONS: 14-5-1-13

RACE 8

Only nine starters face the running of the Shatin Mile Trophy, and as he does with consummate ease and regularity in these Cup races, trainer John Moore should add this to his collection. But with which of his three runners?

10jul 24

Helene Paragon seems the stable elect and choice of Joao Moreira, but the Magic Man’s discard- Joyful Trinity- could offer the most competition. This is a very good pickup ride for Douglas Whyte, and he’s sure to be using all his tactical guile.

The interesting runner and possible fly in the ointment is Packing Llaregyb, which, rather surprisingly, has left the yard of Andreas Schutz, and is having his first start for Ricky Yiu.

10jul 25

Having said this, I keep coming back to the two aforementioned Moore runners and a race that might see a duel down the home stretch between the magic of Moreira and that old Whyte magic.

10jul 26b

SUGGESTIONS: (1-6)-5.2,4

RACE 9

Joao Moreira was crucified by the racing media for his ride on Love Shock- a ride that he himself described as being one of his worst- and he really should make amends by winning this race on the horse.

10jul 26c

The only horse that might stop everything going according to script is Green Card. This is a much better galloper that some think, and with a decent barrier draw for a change, and Zac Purton on it for the first time, a small upset would not be a shock to the system.

10jul 26d

RACE 10

This isn’t called The Entrapment Handicap for nothing. It’s full of traps and working it out looks bloody tricky!

10jul 28

SUGGESTIONS: 13-2-4-3

RACE 11

With a $750,000 High Achievement Bonus (HAB) up for grabs for a few of the horses involved here, there’s quite a bit at stake- along with the good fung shui for owners and stables of bowing out on a winning note. Fung shui. Never underestimate the power and influence and importance of fung shui- good fung shui- in Hong Kong racing.

10jul 29

This race will begin with more ferocity than Mel Gibson as Braveheart leading his troops as they chaaaaaaarge towards their foes in hope of victory.

10jul 30

Well, charge all you will, and there will be at least three horses trying to make it all the way wins. But for my money, I think this will be between three horses- and three jockeys: Merion (Whyte), Invincible Dragon (Purton) and Winston’s Lad (Prebble), all coming off the pace. There are a number of back stories involving all three jockeys with no love lost between them, so expect a very competitive finish with no one giving each other an inch.

10jul 31

Merion looks like a young horse going places, and Douglas Whyte, the legend that he is of Hong Kong racing, but who’s had, let’s face it, the most ordinary season of his illustrious career here, must be wanting to retain the ride for next season. And next season will be hugely important for the Durban Demon. In racing, you’re only as good as your last winner, and Whyte will need all his powers of persuasion to not only get good rides- something so easy for him in the Pre-Magic Man Days- and then deliver- also pretty much a procession before the fine-tuning of the lethal Zac Attack, and the arrival and total dominance of Joao Moreira.

Though Merion goes on top, its with the hope that one sees a vintage Whyte ride. It goes without saying that Purton and Prebble, two extremely strong riders in a finish, will not exactly be respecting their elders- nor past successes. A boxed quinella with outsider So Fast which Opie Bosson rides for John Size- 4,5,6,13- might be the way to go as the curtain falls on another season. Hopefully, it will be on a winning note. Now hit it, Earth Wind And Fire!

 

BEST BET

Race 11: 4-5-6-13 (Boxed quinella)

NEXT BEST

Race 8: 1-6 (quinella)

LONGSHOT

Race 7: Golden Sleep (5)

10jul 33

SIX UP

R6: 3-6-7-10-12
R7: 1-5-8-13-14
R8: 1
R9: 11
R10: 2-4-6-13
R11: 4-13

PARTING SHOT

10jul 34