By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

One of the highlights of the annual Hong Kong-Macau “Interport” race meetings is when a group of us lay down some sizeable bets amongst ourselves as to what outfit Angela Ho, Chairwoman of the Macau Jockey Club, might wear for the occasion.

The fourth and Most Favoured Nation Wife of Macau’s billionaire casino magnate Stanley Ho who’s being kept alive for what seems an eternity to avoid the inevitable fight amongst his wives, his children and his grand children for his massive fortune, is not exactly known for her style. Not that one thinks she gives a damn what anyone thinks.

As these races between the less celebrated local class one horses and the best Macau has to offer are often rather drab annual affairs with very few really caring about who wins and knowing that Macau’s horses will tail the field, a wag decided years ago to start The Lady Angela Clotheshorse Stakes. It’s been an entertaining side show full of Savoy Truffles.

With this year most of us correct that the good lady would favour white boots and a bulky jacket that even Paul Lally would refuse to wear, the bet was considered null and void.

As for the main event, it was more of what we have come to expect with the two Macau horses fighting out the last two places in the Hong Kong Macau Trophy. It’s become more than embarrassing.

The winner was the Tony Cruz trained California Whip, which raced as Chief Whip in the UK when under the care of Richard Hannon, a galloper who might finally be living up to expectations, and given a canny ride by Irishman and the often underrated Neil Callan. Callan woke up most of the New Territories and parts of Mainland China with a strange high pitched scream somewhat reminiscent of that famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” as he passed the winning post.

Having been born in Macau, and with many friends in racing associated with the former Portuguese estuary, Tony Cruz entered his usual strong hand of runners- three- and happily accepted the trophy.

A few months earlier, the Macanese trainer had won the first of these two races when his Romantic Touch won by a yawning six lengths on a rain lashed track with Joao Moreira in the saddle.

Unfortunately, Angela Ho was a no-show that day, but there she was at Shatin on Saturday along with her white boots and heavily padded jacket despite it being a hot and humid day at Sha Tin.

Apart from the win of California Whip, if there was another highlight to the races, it was seeing Macau based jockey Peter Ho winning the last race of the day- an incredibly messy race- aboard the Frankie Lor trained Voyage King.

Ho, who earlier in the day had received a two day suspension for careless riding, managed to win for his brother-in-law by beating fellow Macau-based rider Ruan Maia in a tight finish despite being the meat in a Moreira enchilada during the running of the race.

From what we remember, Lor and Ho rode against each other when both were jockeys in Hong Kong- Frankie Lor being a battling “unfashionable” rider whereas Peter Ho was all style and with a glittering future ahead of him until one of those unexpected U-turns in life saw the then-young rider banished to Macau.

So while Frankie Lor has gone from being assistant trainer to John Size to this season’s success story by more than holding his own in the Hong Kong training ranks, the now “veteran” Peter Ho, below with “Rambo” WH Tse, another former Hong Kong jockey, who these days is a trainer in Macau, is a former champion jockey of Macau and still a very good rider who’s also ridden in Singapore.

While some in Hong Kong saw the booking of Peter Ho by his brother-in-law as a huge tip that the horse was cherry ripe for his race and the best bet of the day, the lightly raced Voyage King still went off at odds of 18 to 1. The “Macau” Quinella with Maia paid over $2,200. Good things come to those who wait or get up late after a long Saturday night.

This last race also saw Joao Moreira suspended for two meetings and slapped with a hefty $100,000 fine for causing the concertina effect that went into creating his deluxe enchilada. We understand that despite riding a double, the magic man didn’t leave the races with a spring in his step. With Zac Purton having ridden a winner, the jockey premiership is far from over. The Fat Lady is still clearing her throat.

As for Saturday’s race meeting, it wasn’t without its usual dramas with suspensions handed down to Chad Schofield, Matthew Poon and Peter Ho, all on careless riding charges while Ruan Maia received a four day holiday for the more serious charge of failing to ride his mount out- Chiu Chow Kid which came a close fourth in race four- all the way to the end to the satisfaction of the stewards.

To pile on the misery, Macau based trainer James Moore, son of Gary Moore, the quite mad former champion Hong Kong and Macau jockey and now training in Sydney, was fined for negligence after two of the three horses he brought over to contest the Cup race tested positive to a prohibited substance. The horses were- quelle supris- withdrawn.

Sure, these things happen everyday everywhere in horse racing, but it’s still not a good look and hardly does anything to change the minds of many who think these Hong Kong Macau races take Hong Kong racing back to the dark ages. Thank gawd for Angela Ho and her unique dress sense. And her very expensive white truffles.

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