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Well, that was an eventful opening day to the new Hong Kong racing season. Apart from the record turnover for an opening day of HK$1.214 billion, and an attendance figure of almost 64,000 at Shatin, one could say that it was The Day Of The Sorcerers’ Apprentices, which is better than saying it was The Day Of The Locusts.

WELCOMES 1

New ten-pound claiming apprentice Dylan Mo had such a roasting for his baptism of fire that he copped a three-day suspension and probably can’t as yet sit down. Now full-time mentor at the HKJC to all apprentices- former great South African rider Felix Coetzee- might have his work cut out with particular work-in-progress in honing his fine motor skills, but isn’t that what many experienced racing pundits said about Kei Chiong when she first sprang out of the barriers?

WELCOMES 2

And what about Kei? She rode a beauty of a race to win on the Tony Cruz-trained Multimax- a clever, strong, determined ride- but had earlier come down to earth with a thud- literally- on a very ordinary- and dumb- ride. Put it down to a temporary brain freeze, something we all go through at one time or another in our daily lives. The good thing was her ability to pick herself up, dust herself off and just connect her feet to the sunny side of the street. And ride a winner a few races later.

WELCOMES 3

The revelation on Saturday was the performance of fellow apprentice Jack Wong. He’s returned with renewed confidence, fire in the belly and a greater sense of purpose that saw him ride an excellent double.

WELCOMES 4b

WELCOMES 4

Again, let’s not forget that many thought this former student at the well-known secondary school- KGV, a school attended by a number of longtime Hong Kong Belongers like trainer Caspar Fownes, and where one has to grow up fast, was lengths ahead of her before Kei Chiong learned to use her right hand in a race and Hong Kong caught Kei Fever. It couldn’t have been easy for Jack Wong to play second fiddle. How these two competitive apprentices progress this season will be a horse opera well worth following.

WELCOMES 5

Having said all this, one can’t help wondering if the overseas riding experiences of these local apprentices could do with some tweaking? Riding in places like Dubbo and Tarree and Kembla and Scone etc and then- BOOM- suddenly riding against world class jockeys at Sha Tin are polar regions apart. There appears to be a missing link between riding these country tracks in places like New South Wales and New Zealand and then immediately being thrust onto the world stage.

WELCOMES 6

As for the senior jockeys on Saturday, it was great to see Nash Rawiller not only ride a double- it came very close to being a treble- but also win the Jockey Challenge.

WELCOMES 7b

WELCOMES 7

The Gnasher has shown a steely determination to succeed in Hong Kong, and with a strong family support system, and his own god-given talents, everything is finally clicking and all the hard work is paying off for The Quiet Man of Hong Kong racing. The problem with being too quiet in such a competitive environment is being overlooked. Still, it’s great to see The Gnasher’s hard work and patience paying off.

WELCOMES 8

Other worthy mentions are Neil Callan’s very clever ride to win the first race of the season, an absolute peach of a ride by the Zac Attack to win aboard Beauty Master, a vintage Douglas Whyte ride to win on Roundabout and a great ride by the very underrated Derek Leung, below, to win on a horse which looks to be heading much higher in Baba Mama. Forgetting about winning popularity competitions and no matter how many winners others might have racked up, Derek Leung is by far the best local rider.

WELCOMES 9b

WELCOMES 9

The hard luck story of the day was probably Karis Teetan being knocked from pillar to post aboard Blizzard in the HKSAR Chief Executive Cup won by former Chris Waller “no hoper” Lucky Year.

WELCOMES 10

Writing in the Sunday Morning Post, Alan Aitken, with tongue very much planted in left cheek, showed trainer Danny Shum to be suffering from his own attack of brain freeze with his illogical pipe dream to race the galloper in Japan’s Group 1 Sprinters Stakes on October 2. The horse’s regular rider Joao Moreira was his usual politically correct self by politely putting forward his opinion that Lucky Year “certainly isn’t ready for a Group One”. Certainly. Plus, entries for the Sprinters Stakes closed on August 16. With that, let’s leave sleeping dogs lie with no fleas.

WELCOMES 11

As for tonight, odds are that this is when Joao Moreira makes his “comeback”. Yes, one race meeting down and with the Magic Man having ridden “only” one winner, there are those who honestly believe the brilliant Brazilian to be going through a “slump”. Heavy indeed is the head that wears the crown, and heavier is when we get so used to Moreira riding trebles, quartets, quintets and sextets that unless he rides at least a treble, and then feeds the forty thousand, it’s like Superman being felled by kryptonite.

WELCOMES 12

Below are only suggestions for the races tonight. For tips listen to Paul Lally, Brett Davis and Jenny from the Paddock. My only tips would be to try and tag along with the Happy Wednesday Style Police and help find the most stylish people around the Beer Garden.

WELCOMES 13

WELCOMES 14

Then head up to Adrenaline after 10pm when there’s no entrance charge and take in the ‘live’ music until midnight from the excellent Jennifer Palor Band. There are also two great bar areas and a dance floor to exercise some pumped up kicks.

WELCOMES 15

RACE 1
11-9-7-3

WELCOMES 16

RACE 2
1-5-4-10

WELCOMES 17

RACE 3
3-10-11-1

WELCOMES 18

RACE 4
3-10-5-12

WELCOMES 19

RACE 5
7-1-3-6

WELCOMES 20

RACE 6
10-2-7-3

WELCOMES 21

RACE 7
9-3-6-8

WELCOMES 22

RACE 8
4-5-3-8

WELCOMES 23

BEST BET
Race 8: Mr Bogart (4)

NEXT BEST
Race 5: Victory Marvel (7)

LONGSHOT
Race 1: Intellectual Glide (11)

WELCOMES 24

SIX UP

R3: 3-10
R4: 3
R5: 1-3-6-7
R6: 2-3-7-9-10
R7: 8-9
R8: 4

WELCOMES 25

PARTING SHOT

WELCOMES 26