It’s been terrific to see former boom apprentice Matthew Chadwick find his mojo and return with a newly found determination and ride winners with a sense of urgent regularity. Get all that?

On Wednesday, he produced a very good ride to win on Applause at Happy Valley and those of us who have always followed the talented rider cheered him on. So imagine the surprise to see the local rider with just one ride today- the Benno Yung trained Catchmeifyoucan in race one, which is not without a chance at good odds. It underlines just how competitive Hong Kong racing is today.

As even Joao Moreira has admitted, he often cannot get on the horses one might think would be a mere formality. It’s tough out there and which makes the win of Olivier Delouze last weekend to take out the Centenary Sprint Cup on the John Size trained DB Pin all the more special.

Described today as a “veteran jockey”, the popular fortysomething Frenchman, who’ll probably be remembered best for his association with Champion Hong Kong miler Good Ba Ba, below, has not hidden the fact that being offered rides these days is becoming more and more difficult.

This season, “Ollie” has ridden a handful of winners with over half of these having been for John Size who’s on a fabulous sausage roll of winners. And though Joao Moreira has first call on the stable’s main chances, the master horseman has thrown his considerable support behind Delouze, Brett Prebble, Nash Rawiller, Sam Clipperton and apprentice Jack Wong who won for him on Dinozzo on Wednesday. John Size is almost the patron saint of riders needing a timely leg up.

What hasn’t gone unnoticed has been absolutely no support for Douglas Whyte, surprising when one thinks back to those days not that long ago when the Whyte Size duopoly dominated Hong Kong racing.

Who knows why and when it all went pear-shaped, but it’s both sad and baffling to see a rider with thirteen consecutive Hong Kong champion jockey premierships in his curriculum vitae often having less than four rides on a ten race card.

Today, Douglas Whyte has the usual quota of four rides- a huge difference to the days when Whyte was the “Durban Demon” and could pick and choose what he wanted to ride and breathe fire on his opponents.

Why does he continue to ride under what must be challenging conditions when with luxurious properties in Tuscany and Phuket and no doubt wise investments, one would hardly think that Douglas Whyte would need the money?

Knowing his steely determination, it probably has to do with his will to win and strong self belief in his ability to continue riding at a world class level.

There are rumours that Whyte would like to end his riding career in Perth, which sounds pretty daft though, as seen below, he’s enjoyed some fairly recent success in an often baffling racing jurisdiction with some strange ties by some to racing in Singapore and Malaysia. We just wish the ‘live’ broadcasts of its racing gets the very basics worked out. It’s been a mess for months.

As for Douglas Whyte, perhaps closer to the truth is that he will eventually be granted a license to train in Hong Kong. Perhaps. Perhaps this might explain the reticence by some trainers to offer him rides. During his prime, Douglas Whyte had the reputation for being highly competitive and persuasive when pursuing rides. There just might be the paranoia by some that he could be doing the groundwork to win over owners for if and when he becomes a trainer.

All of the above underlines the changing face of Hong Kong racing. It’s not about Hong Kong racing no longer being fun. It’s about Hong Kong racing growing up and being hugely competitive because of the money at stake.

Why else are even “battling” jockeys happy to be riding in Hong Kong? The tax breaks on earnings, racing twice a week, the lifestyle and generous owners might have something to do with it. It beats the hell out of travelling all over the place to ride seven days a week and pay almost fifty percent in taxes. Many forget the perks of living and working in Hong Kong no matter what the industry.

As for Hong Kong racing, it was never “fun”. It happened to be the only game in town during a much simpler time and much fewer leisure activities. Before the opening of the racecourse at Sha Tin, it was racing once a week at Happy Valley- an eight race card- followed by drinks at The Bull And Bear, or The Godown before checking out the band at the Mocambo and then moving to Kowloon and hitting The Scene in the basement of the Peninsula Hotel. Here, on any given night, it wouldn’t be a surprise to run into Led Zeppelin or actors Steve McQueen and Roger Moore taking a break from filming in the city.

The “fun” in following horse racing started when the Macau Jockey Club opened, and the then-Portuguese enclave became the weekend playground for many and the start of the long jockey lunches attended by those riding in Hong Kong and Macau and usually ending up at night in clubs like China City and the bar at the Mandarin Hotel.

On Hong Kong side, these regular lunches would usually end at Someplace Else, the bar in the basement of the Sheraton hotel.

The real end to that part of the day was usually when then-jockeys Declan Murphy or Neil Paine, both below, would insist on taking over the microphone and launch into song. Dogs howled and grown men weeped.

The “fun” of the races today is trying to find the winners, yes, but also with a very competitive Jockey Challenge that looks like revolving around Joao Moreira and Zac Purton with Derek Leung having more than an outside chance. But not being “tipsters” or needing the pressures of being one, we’ll leave this to the mysterious Keyser Soze who was very much around the money last weekend.


KEYSER SOZE AND TODAY’S USUAL AND UNUSUAL SUSPECTS AT SHA TIN…

RACE 1

TREASURE AND GOLD (4)
CARRY TO WIN (9)
CATCHMEIFYOUCAN (8)
LAUGHING LORD (11)

RACE 2

SPEEDY KING (2)
HAVE FUN TOGETHER (3)
KAI YING BRILLIANCE (6)
REGENCY DARLING (8)

RACE 3

After the impressive last start win in the January Cup of Eagle Way at Happy Valley, trainer John Moore was quoted as saying that Zac Purton had “first refusal” on whether to ride the horse again. Whether he was committed to ride Gold Mount, owned by billionaire Pan Sutong and trained by Tony Cruz for whom the Zac Attack does most of his riding these days, or not, Eagle Way will today be ridden by Tommy Berry, who, some forget is Moore’s stable jockey. The trainer has two other runners in the race- Rivet and Ruthven.

The Group 3 Centenary Vase might have attracted only seven runners, but it’s an intriguing race- and not only in trying to determine the winner- a race where the influential Siu family, the owners of Tulloch Lodge in Australia, have two runners- Eagle Way and Dinozzo, who backs up after winning at Happy Valley on Wednesday. Advised is a watching brief.

RIVET (6)
GOLD MOUNT (3)
EAGLE WAY (2)
RUTHVEN (7)

RACE 4

SUPER MISSILE (1)
TRAVEL EMPEROR (3)
I’M A WITNESS (11)
TRIUMPHANT LIGHT (14)

RACE 5

TAI SMART (9)
RULE THEE (8)
BRING IT ON (6)
SUPER CHIC (2)

RACE 6

NOBLE STEED (1)
NAMJONG PLUS (3)
RELENTLESS ME (2)
MAGIC SUCCESS (9)

RACE 7

DANCES WITH DRAGON (9)
PING HAI STAR (8)
RACING SUPERNOVA (1)
KINGSFIELD (7)

RACE 8

TURIN REDSTAR (7)
OUR HERO (13)
SLEEP EDUCATION (4)
INFINITY ENDEAVOUR (5)

RACE 9

IVICTORY (2)
BETTER CHOICE (11)
MY BEGINNER’S LUCK (4)
SUPER WISE (8)

RACE 10

WORLD RECORD (8)
BABA MAMA (4)
REGENCY BO BO (11)
SIR REDALOT (13)

BEST BET
RACE 4
SUPER MISSILE (1)

NEXT BEST
RACE 9
IVICTORY (2)

LONGSHOT
RACE 1
CATCHMEIFYOUCAN (8)

PARTING SHOT

#HongKong #HongKongHorseRacing #HKJC #MatthewChadwick #DouglasWhyte #JoaoMoreira #ZacPurton #DerekLeung