By Hans Ebert



Why does anyone like someone? It’s an intangible. One might respect someone without liking them- without caring for them, going to bat for them. Being there for them. It’s like being attracted to someone of the opposite sex.

Attraction and wanting to be with them are two very different things. It’s why there are one night stands. Or short term relationships, which often are about playing for time until someone “better” comes along.

In sports, in music, movies etc, we might respect many in these fields without necessarily liking them. Sure, it’s difficult to like anyone if one hasn’t met them. But if that likability factor doesn’t come through in any of the social media platforms with their 24/7 news, it ain’t there.

Right here and now there’s been more and more information about Donald Trump confidante Roger Stone. Being media fed even when stuffed worse than Mr Creosote, Stone comes across as a serial megalomaniac- cunning, arrogant, manipulative, crooked, despicable. He’s definitely not likeable.

The Trump White House seems to be unraveling fast and furiously with the tough talking President suddenly looking and sounding more and more like a Roger Stone groupie who’s based his persona on someone whom he idolises. He’s like a Mean Girl.

Yesterday while watching the Men’s Final of the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in three straight sets. Both men are superb athletes. It showed the clinical brilliance of Djokovic. Sometimes perfection has no soul- at least on centre court.

No matter how great a player he is, Djokovic doesn’t have me cheering him on as I do Roger Federer. I’m sure Djokovic would be shattered to hear that. Like wanting both Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova to win the Women’s Final, who we choose to like cannot be forced on us. It’s a personal choice.

In horse racing are there favourites and heroes? Certain horses, maybe, especially to those who have been brought up around these wonderful and beautiful animals.

We might be fans of certain riders for their riding skills, but how many do we really like?

Friends of mine who have only a passing interest in horse racing are completely captivated by Joao Moreira. Why? It’s something undefinable.

They know who are very good riders, but they are always there rooting for the Brazilian magic man. He’s likeable, his rags to riches story is marketable and Joao is not exactly lacking in charisma and immense talent. Charisma can’t be explained. It can’t be dissected and turned into a fine art. You either have it or you’re just another brick in Trump’s invisible wall.

When hearing that Alberto Sanna had won a race on Sunday, I took to Twitter to congratulate him. I was happy for him.

I had gone out of my way to meet him a few months ago- to see what he was like as a person. We got along immediately and we’re now friends. I have met his wife Roberta and know them to be good people. Some of my friends have also met the couple and like them very much. We’re part of Team Sanna.

The man from Sardinia might not have the brilliance and drawing power in horse racing of Joao Moreira or Zac Purton or the history of Douglas Whyte, but he’s a trier. Not a battler. A trier. Someone to respect. Someone who inspires us.

Alberto Sanna has worked tremendously hard to return to competitive race riding after fracturing his hip in a freakish accident while exercising on his mountain bike. He returned to riding almost two months before anyone thought he would. That took incredible focus. And determination. Inspiring stuff when inspiration is in short supply.

These days, he’s out there doing everything possible to let trainers know that he’s more than fit and ready to compete with the best and available for rides. He’s happy to put in the hard work and travel to Conghua to trial horses with no promises of anything.

Last Wednesday, there he was since his comeback without even one ride. Not. One. Ride. He and Roberta were with a group of us at Adrenaline watching the races- fine for us as riding horses is not part of our lives. But watching Alberto sitting there when he should have been competing made one think how tough it is if not a rider who’s in demand. This wasn’t lost on us.

Many think Zac Purton has things easy. How he can pick and choose his rides. Yes, he can. He can do this today. But let’s not forget the many years he was passed over for “better” riders. It’s taken him years of hard work to be recognised as one of the best jockeys in the world.

Those days are what many, especially those who have only a passing interest in horse racing, want to know about instead of regurgitating the same old same old sound bites to the same old same old audience.

These human interest stories are what attracts a far bigger mainstream audience, sponsors, advertisers and hold effective marketing programmes.

No one rolled out the red carpet for him- nor his one-time nemesis Douglas Whyte who had to play second banana to Basil Marcus before coming into his own- and said, “Welcome to your Boogie Wonderland in Hong Kong”.

When one particular trainer mentioned around 4-5 years ago how he wanted to give Zac more rides, but they just weren’t “lucky” together, it took me slightly off guard. But that’s in the past. Today, Zac Purton is extremely lucky for the trainer. And vice versa.

Zac Purton is his own man. It’s taken him time to arrive at this point. Cocky? Maybe. So was that boxer named Cassius Clay. He turned out okay.

Confidence in one’s self might give those on the outside looking in that impression. But when one can ride Exultant to win like he did on Sunday and bring up winner number 1200 for trainer Tony Cruz while some in the same race rode like the Cisco Kid and Pancho, he can afford to exude confidence. I would.

When you know you’re the best in anything, self confidence can be mistaken for arrogance. It could make one unpopular. Does it matter? Does it mean having to pretend to be modest, apologise and explain one’s self? This could become a full time job. One could also be seen as being bit of a bore.

As for Alberto Sanna, there’s an inner resolve in him- and a self confidence- that he can beat the odds. That success breeds success.

That like trainer Me Tsui giving him a ride with a real winning chance, others will see that he can deliver the goods with a salami on top. They’re seeing this- Cruzy, Caspar Fownes, Danny Shum…

Winning on Sunday, especially after that barren Wednesday on the aptly named Winner Supreme has won over many in the racing media, especially the Chinese racing media. They are willing him to succeed.

Yesterday’s win probably won’t make headlines in the racing pages and be “liked” and retweeted on Twitter. But seriously now, apart from those Blue Tickyboos who count followers, who in the real world cares?

Alberto Sanna has taken the first step in his comeback. Team Sanna is right behind him. We wanna be part of that magic carpet ride. It’s an important part of what keeps some of us interested in horse racing. Those human interest stories.

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