By Hans Ebert

Often one forgets how tough it is out there until reality slaps you in the face and wakes you up from some weird somnambulistic bliss and realise that it’s time to get your ass into gear. That no one’s going to make things happen for you except you. That it’s time to wake up!

Though not living and breathing horse racing, the story in the racing pages of the SCMP on Monday about jockey Callan Murray made me think whether I could have dealt with everything he had to go through- endure is a better word- during his pretty barren six months in Hong Kong this season.

This six month license ended quietly on Sunday. I was hoping he would bow out on a winning note aboard the Caspar Fownes trained outsider Mighty Maverick. The runner managed to finish a good third.

Fairy tale endings are only to be found in “And they lived happily ever after.” There’s rarely any such thing. We manage to survive and have occasional moments of happiness.

For Callan Murray, a young rider from South Africa, who made a headlines a season earlier by winning a couple of Group races here, the opportunity to again ride in Hong Kong this season, didn’t promise great riches and the rolling out of the red carpet. It was not, however, about him making up the numbers.

Having met him twice last season, he’s an upbeat and very likeable young gentleman with a very positive attitude. And he delivered.

This season was different. For whatever reason, the support of trainers and owners just wasn’t there. And when staring down the barrel of a six month license to prove one’s self, it’s bound to create more than a certain degree of anxiety.

Without rides, there can’t be winners. And without rides with winning chances, what is one expected to do with the crumbs tossed your way?

What Callan Murray had to smile and make the most that came his way made me think of a number of riders in Hong Kong today who are struggling. Put them together with trainers struggling to get a winner on the board and what you have is internal combustion. Stress does this to anyone in any industry. Howard Beale lives…

In horse racing, this is where one needs to respect and acknowledge the accomplishments of Douglas Whyte and Zac Purton.

Both arrived in Hong Kong as unknowns. Both had a number of years playing second fiddle and sitting in the pits with the rest of the orchestra before there came that elusive home run.

For Zac Purton, it was probably winning The King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot in 2012 on the Danny Shum trained Little Bridge.

It was the same day I first met Gai and Robbie Waterhouse. While getting to know each other, came the message of the win of Little Bridge. Another glass of champagne, please.

It was the home run he needed, and like Douglas Whyte before him, it no doubt inspired Zac Purton to go after the golden ring.

The legacy of Douglas Whyte is still only one chapter of an incredible career in horse racing. As a trainer, he’s in a great position to bring about change in what is still a marginal sport that needs a massive facelift.

At 48, he will have the time to see horse racing’s landscape change- and, quite possibly, be part of this change. Douglas Whyte is hardly someone happy to be part of the Yes People.

As for Zac Purton, he’s the best rider in the world. At least, he is to this writer. He gets better and better, so much so, that it’s scary. He’s not just in the zone, he’s created his own sphere.

Fascinating is how he got from way back there with the chasing pack to winning over the two biggest families involved in Hong Kong racing- the Siu and Kwok dynasties. Not even some of the leading trainers have the relationship Zac Purton has with them. What’s next for the Australian rider? How long is a ball of string?

As for those behind him, Joao Moreira will always land on his feet. He’s the magic cat. Nothing fazes him. Think he was born with a thumbs up sign.

Karis Teetan is proof positive how a few quick home runs can lead to more hits at the plate. Success breeds success and he’s today in demand by the big stables run by Tony Cruz and John Size. What a brilliant change of fortune from his childhood in Mauritius and how his father had to use the family’s life savings to enrol the young Karis at the South African Jockey Academy.

Knowing how tough it’s been to get to where he is today and having ridden fifty winners so far this season, the odds are that the affable Mauritian realises he’s only as good as his last win. Now that he’s here, he’s going nowhere.

Horse racing in Hong Kong is like nowhere else in the world for many reasons. To survive in this industry is a 24/7 job. It’s a fitness business- fitness of mind and body and always having that self confidence in one’s self. It’s always what’s separated the men from the boys. In every industry.

Like it has with Sam Clipperton who’s back in Sydney riding winners in top races, Hong Kong would have helped Callan Murray to grow up. Prepared him for the next part of his journey. He’s going to be fine when he starts his new career in Singapore.

#HKracing #horseracing #ZacPurton #DouglasWhyte #JoaoMoreira #KarisTeetan #CallanMurray