By Hans Ebert

It’s more like a dress rehearsal today. The horse racing at Sha Tin. It’s impossible to hurl one’s self into anything with any great confidence. Except stating the obvious: Champion jockey Zac Purton, below, will ride a couple of winners. At least.

Champion trainer John Size will not lead in any winners. Why? He doesn’t have any runners. These early season meetings are when Size doesn’t matter. He’s chilling with Dylan. As for the card? Ho hum. Trying to pick winners? Make it a trial run.

How, for example, is one to know what might be going through the heads of those runners trained under the velveteen skies and five star environment of the Conghua Training Facility in Guangzhou only to find themselves back in Sha Tin? There could be a shock to the system.

Former SCMP Racing Editor Alan Aitken apparently has a tipping show for the HKJC. The Winning Factor. We found it on the club’s multimedia section after finding the multimedia section and tried to click onto it. Didn’t open. Maybe The X Factor was missing?

Watched the Three Amigos on the Racing To Win fiesta of information, but needed a siesta after finding it too much of a chore to watch the programme in totality.

It was back to watching every race one at a time. Someone better press that Refresh button and make this and other programming content on the HKJC multimedia section easier to access. And shorter. Punchier. One doesn’t finally find this programme to watch Othello by The Performing Players From Ye Olde Vic Theatre. It’s more basic stuff. It’s not rocket science. It’s the HKJC’s Three Amigos.

Having only managed to sit through around a minute of bibs and bobs including that montage of clips in the intro shown over what sounds like “Band On The Run” played by the James Last Orchestra, nothing much has changed. It brought to mind having baked beans for lunch with flat mates after a particularly giddy night before. Don’t think about that too deeply.

In the land Down Under meanwhile, after what seemed like a hailstorm of drab meetings mainly on Soft 5 and Heavy 10 tracks- a number of appalling tracks where throwing money their way was just plain stupid- the weather is changing. The racing won’t be on bogs for much longer. Hopefully. The better horses have started making their reappearances.

Of course what won’t stop are the interviews by those on racing radio channels with no shame to come across sounding like slobbering desperadoes begging trainers to throw them a bone for a “Friday and Weekend Fill Up”. Any fill up on any day actually. None have the subtlety and style of Greg Miles. It all comes across as being very Oliver Twisted.

There are then those supposedly professional tipsters with their quaddie selections. And guaranteed to have followers lose even when winning. A percentage of a quaddie at some small meeting where the maths for the four races add up to 4x4x4x4? And where one is advised to take a “flexi”? That won’t even buy one a soggy wonton. That is IF that bet even comes through. They rarely do.

The jabbering about the upcoming Everbeast in Sydney continues with some geniuses insisting that Chautauqua should be accorded a slot. And who will guarantee a refund if the great grey decides that the vibes aren’t right that day to bother coming out of the stalls?

In Hong Kong, even if Monty Roberts might have whispered to him, how many would back Pakistan Star with their hard earned money? Though my favourite horse and a fabulous character, he’s simply not a betting proposition. Many love to see him go around and win without being bashed about again by The Boys From Brazil and return home safe a happy chappy.

Chautauqua taking his place at the one trick pony that’s the Everbeast? Please, possums. One would think listening to some of the radio pundits that all “participants” have shares in these much touted “slots”. Not just a handful of elitists with the usual Sheik your money makers and dry cleaners behind the front men.

It all reminds some us of one of those classic Gahan Wilson cartoons where a huge green genie pops out of a lamp and says with a devious smile, “Boy, do I have a deal for you!”

Integrity in horse racing comes in different shapes and sizes. And Trojan horses. The only difference is in how they’re served up. And bought. Hook, line and sinker. And stinker.

Yesterday didn’t get off to a brilliant start for many skipping down that yellow brick road in the land of Oz looking for immediate riches. Especially those who kept sending messages that two particular horses, one in the first at Randwick, the other in the first at Caulfield, just could not be beaten. They both were. Beaten. Badly. And as very short priced favourites. These were Sunday Mornings and Jameeh. The runs were too horrible to watch.

It was like watching that other “sure thing” at Belmont- Flirtini- come in third. At $1.50. In a seven horse field. It was a blessing for trainer Simon Miller that he was in Melbourne for Deane Lester’s 50th.

Then, favourite Vega Magic- screamed from rooftops for weeks as a certainty to take out the Memsie Stakes- had to settle for fourth. The race was won by 20 to 1 shot Humidor. Humidor was one of three runners in the race trained by that great knockabout bloke “Weiry”. Did the straight talking no bollocks “Weiry” mention Humidor in any interviews about his stable’s chances? Or the other, er, four winners on the day? Hmmmmmm?

It was a great day for Team Weir and jockey Damian Lane who rode a long priced treble. Hong Kong got a look in at Caulfield when Call Me Handsome, who formerly raced here when trained by David Hall, led all the way for owner Elizabeth Lee and piloted by Craig Williams. The Caulfield quaddie paid a handsome $163,000.

There were some bizarre moments. Like when told by the race caller that the last race on the Sunshine Coast went off before the starter pressed the button? How?

Then came a protracted wait that lasted almost an hour before the results became official but not before one runner was suddenly declared a non runner. But all this was nothing compared to what was going on at Belmont after the running of the Idyllic Prince Stakes.

William Pike, The Grand Wizard of Western Australian horse racing had fired in a protest after losing by a whisker on favourite Man Booker. The grounds? “Unfair advantage”. In more simple terms, team riding by the eventual winner- the Darren Mcauliffe trained Rebel King ridden by Mitchell Pateman and supposedly aided and abetted by a long priced stablemate “offering” a convenient inside run.

The protest was thrown out. And though the Grand Wizard had to fight for his rights and those of the horse’s connections with all the angst of the Beastie Boys, was this the right time and platform to bring up the subject of team riding? Especially after the prize giving ceremony. Could William Pike have opened up a can of worms? Could he have created Pike’s Law?

Back in Hong Kong, it’s pretty much business as usual with one very obvious person involved in Hong Kong racing having quietly disappeared from sight. It’s like he never existed. Hello? Goodbye?

As for the racing, back Neil Callan and Rattan to win the last, have something small on Super Eighteen to take out the first and, other than the Zac Attack, expect Karis Teetan and Chad Schofield to be amongst the winners. Then just chillax and watch. Like to watch?

We’d be holding our horses for the first Happy Wednesday of the season.

#horseracing #HKracing #HKJC #ZacPurton #Chautaqua #PakistanStar #DarrenWeir #WilliamPike