By Hans Ebert

You have to live in Hong Kong to understand life in this city during the horse racing off-season. Some of us are fortunate enough to simply take off and re-charge batteries, discover ourselves in faraway lands, or form love cults in Sri Lanka with Lithuanian beauties, but millions can’t. They’re stuck here. And this year’s summer of discontent where the bubble burst and out popped a malevolent genie out to spread a confusing and stinging attacks often embraced by a generation lost in time and with idealism mixed with mayhem against their own home has been impossible for the law abiding people of Hong Kong to understand, let alone accept.

Hongkongers have never seen Hong Kong come apart at the seams as relentlessly as it has and with no end in sight.

It’s why photos of the annual pre-season Jockeys Sprint gave many in Hong Kong finally something to smile about- a respite from non-stop bad news spread over and over again through the reach of social media and where way too often nothing’s real and there’s everything to get hung up about.

Horse racing in Hong Kong is unlike horse racing anywhere else in the world. Other than racing taking place twice a week at two vastly different race courses offering everything for every customer demographic and competitive racing starring the most international lineup of jockeys, horse racing here is also an entertaining stress buster.

In a city where especially afternoon weekends are a routine of lunch, followed by a movie or shopping, horse racing provides millions with a break from wandering through a routine and boring thoroughfare of mundanity.

On opening day of every new racing season, tradition is for the city’s Chief Executive to bang a gong, get rid of any evil spirits lurking around and ring in good fung shui.

For reasons obvious to those following the news is that there’ll be no signs of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s “Mommie Dearest” leader who’s lost the compass along and the coat hangers with the support of 99.9 percent of the public.

While the “Chief Executive” will be a no-show as will anyone from the government, it’s horse racing as usual and the first day of the new season on Sunday.

Many, especially racing fans in Australia, will be eager to see how Blake Shinn does on his debut in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, those in South Africa will be following their champion rider Lyle Hewitson, below, and hoping he hits the ground running on his first day of riding here like many of his fellow countrymen have done- Richard Fourie, Karis Teetan and, more recently, Grant van Niekerk and Aldo Domeyer.

The first day and first race winning strike rate by South African riders in Hong Kong is quite extraordinary.

Lyle Hewitson has been “coming” to Hong Kong for at least two years. Why he didn’t was, apparently because he was still an apprentice -even though a record breaking apprentice- and “too young”. So once was Michael Jackson.

The important thing is that Lyle Hewitson is now here and, by the way, having finished his education. Everyone who’s met him has mentioned- including other jockeys riding here- how he’s “very nice”.

Lyle Hewitson can also ride and this talent along with having finished his studies plus being “very nice” and with good people skills should hold him in good stead.

No one has time for rudeness from anyone. It’s an immediate turn-off. It’s a stigma that often sticks in the goldfish bowl of Hong Kong racing where Chinese Whispers have seen many riders fall out of favour- quick.

As for Blake Shinn, it’s also been a pretty long wait for this very gifted and experienced rider to be granted a license to ride in Hong Kong.

Not surprisingly, he’ll be going all out to make up for lost time. One of the very best riders in Australia, Blake Shinn has seen it all- the highs and lows and read end of horse racing. Remember this slight “malfunction”? Talk about freezing one’s arse off.

More seriously, it wasn’t that long ago when, after a fall at Randwick, one wondered if he would ever ride again. But human resolve shows the measure of a man.

Jockey Blake Shinn continues recovery from broken neck – The Daily Telegraph

Shinn opens up about mental health – Punters

Blake Shinn fought through various thresholds of pain and returned when he knew he was ready and immediately went about riding winners with trebles coming thick and fast.

With the Spring Carnival in Australia around the corner and with him no doubt losing out on being the regular rider for a number of quality three-year olds, it underlines Shinn’s commitment to not just make his presence felt in Hong Kong, but to show everyone that he’s here for the long run.

Hong Kong racing is the winner to have the talents of Blake Shinn…and Lyle Hewitson riding here. They add to the competitiveness and internationalism of Hong Kong racing.

That they’re here at one of the most important times in the history and future of Hong Kong adds to their adventure out here.

We’re very lucky to have them- along with every single rider out there doing their best to win- and providing Hong Kong and Hong Kong’s favourite pastime with some much needed good vibes, man.

#BlakeShinn #LyleHewitson #HKracing #hongkong #FastTrackHK #HansEbert #horseracing