By Hans Ebert
@HansEbertMusic
Visit: www.hans-ebert.com

THE “BEN HUR, TEN COMMANDMENTS AND ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST” AWARD

Winner and loser and wiener: This Hong Kong racing season. It’s been like that Eveready Battery rabbit that banged its drum and went on and on and on and…Well, you get the drift.

Perhaps it’s because of everything else happening in the city that’s taken its toll on one’s psyche, but it sure seems like it’s been a helluva long hot summer of a racing season. Add to this the various simulcasts from Royal Ascot, a couple of one-off races from France, races from Japan that were, apparently, box office commingling boffo hits for turnover, and horse racing fatigue seems to have hit Hong Kong.


THE BIG CHEESE AWARD
Winner: William “Billy” Nader.

Like Groundhog Day, our great mate Mr Bill has always been a Big Cheese. A legend in his own lunchtime. But he outdid himself this racing season. This was when the HKJC Executive ran after Zac Purton and stopped him from weighing in after reaching the milestone of riding 1000 winners in Hong Kong. Why? To present the champion jockey with a special (?) blue cloth cap at the winner’s enclosure. Then came the big whopper of a photo opp oozing in cheese. We like the photobomber in the background.

Never ever think that Mr Bill is bereft of innovative ideas for horse racing in Hong Kong. There are plenty more fireworks from where that cloth cap came. As he’s proudly told us, “I know what’s good for the Club”.

His old sparring partner and the much missed Nick Columb along with the equally missed barrister and racing enthusiast Kevin Egan would have had a field day with that line.


THE OVERKILL AWARD

Every piece of communication for Hong Kong’s best and most popular horse Beauty Generation.

Beauty Generation has done Hong Kong horse racing proud. Here is the World’s Best Miler. Might even be the best horse in the world. But instead of celebrating the horse’s brilliant achievements with exciting and innovative marketing ideas, what continues to be cranked out is the same old same old footage with the usual “dramatic” library music that’s always on the funereal (sic) side of the street. It makes everything good look predictable, ponderously pretentious and very very, well, bo-ring.

How much more of these cookie cutter videos can horse racing take? It’s all looking like one long exercise in cliches produced as usual by that well-known company Navel Gazing Inc.


THE “HEEEEEERE’S JOHNNY” SHINING AWARD

Winner: Douglas Whyte

The former champion jockey of Hong Kong has been lying in wait for the past few months. There’s been his World Tour to check out the training techniques and facilities of Sir Michael Stoute, Willie Mullins, Chris Waller, David Hayes etc. It’s all part of checking out the lay of the land and gearing up before making his presence felt next season as a trainer.

Of course, The Great Whyte Hope has got a number of trainers (and jockeys) a little spooked. Why? Because it’s Douglas Whyte- something of The Avenger and John Wicks of horse racing who surely MUST have some old scores to settle. And what’s the best revenge of all? Success. And then more success.


THE “HO HO HO” AWARD

Winner: Vincent CY Ho.

This season’s most improved jockey and destined to rise even higher next season.

Of special mention has been the unswerving support of former boss Caspar Fownes. Not even the persuasive powers of Zac Purton could unseat Vincent Ho from the ride on Rise High in the Premier Plate. “Casibah” stuck with his former apprentice and Vincent Ho delivered for the popular trainer. In spades.

Loyalty in horse racing? A rarity. But it does happen.


THE “BUTCH AND SUNDANCE” AWARD

Winners: Grant van Niekerk and Aldo Domeyer.

When the two South African riders were granted Club jockey licenses in Hong Kong, both had question marks hanging over their heads. And a few guillotines. “Not good enough” said some who knew the riders from South Africa.

Van Niekerk didn’t let any of this faze him. Rode a double in his first day of racing in Hong Kong, both for Tony Millard, who’s always supported riders from his home country.

Apparently, not the easiest of trainers for whom to ride, “Millie” described him as “cool”. Cool or not and despite the usual childish mind games played by those living in that fishbowl that’s Shatin Heights, Grant van Niekerk has now ridden an impressive thirty winners including a treble last Sunday which won him the Jockey Challenge.

Aldo Domeyer, who received his riding license for the last three months of the season, answered the call by already booting home more winners than many thought he would.

Both riders have quickly won the support of nearly every trainer in Hong Kong. There’s also something of the X factor about them. We can’t put our finger on it. Call it a gut feeling, but these two are here for the long ride. Success breeds success.


THE “WHAT’S IN A NAME?” AWARD

Forget the words Dragon and Lucky and Supreme and Flying and Golden and Rich and Prawn when it comes to giving English names for horses racing in Hong Kong. This season saw one Giant Turtle and a Chicken Dance. Then there is Uncle Steve and the gelding Monica.


THE “BIRD’S NEST SOUP” AWARD

Winner: The Phyllis Diller-inspired hairstyle of Mrs SaSa- Eleanor Kwok, the matriarch of the Kwok racing dynasty which owns all those “Beauty” horses including, yeah, Beauty Generation.

Does Lady Eleanor care what anyone else thinks? Why? Hair today, hair tomorrow.


THE “MR CREOSOTE BUFFET” AWARD

Winner: Zac Purton.

Spoilt for choice? Well, that’s an understatement with the champion rider having first call on Hong Kong’s most promising sprinters- Thanks Forever, Voyage Warrior, Aethero, Big Party- and regular rider of Beauty Generation, Exultant- and, really, most anything he wants to ride.


THE “CONFUSION BOLTS” AWARD

Winner: Pakistan Star

From being a “viral sensation” and then deciding he wasn’t in the mood to race to a merry-go-round of different riders and being pummelled by a couple of Samba Boys to then moving stables, being reunited with his original rider, tackling various distances and being described as a stayer, the enigmatic galloper is now said to have a new rider and will next take his place in a sprint race.

To be continued…

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