When predicting that the 2019-20 Hong Kong racing season would be one of change, no one could have predicted what would be in store. The same can be said for the climate change around us and a topsy turvy angst riddled world where nothing is right.

As for Hong Kong, as a city and for its past, present and future, it definitely wasn’t prepared for the hard rain that has fallen. And we’re still not outta the woods. Far from it. The big bad wolf, dressed in very many guises, is still huffing and puffing outside the door backed by a cacophony of mixed messages from different voices as a hashtag-led leaderless free-for-all party pretty much paralyses a city every weekend.

What started out as a peaceful march against the now-withdrawn extradition bill has morphed into some unknown multi-headed and many layered beast of burden that’s been allowed to run rampant as a completely lost government, supposedly led by a Chief Executive, makes mewing sounds and watches the freak show unfold.

Hong Kong has become Gotham City, but Carrie Lam is hardly a caped crusader.

Returning to the horse racing- and so integral to the sanity and image of Hong Kong which has taken a severe bashing since June, Douglas Whyte has successfully made that transition from thirteen-time consecutive champion Hong Kong jockey to Hong Kong’s newest trainer. It’s hardly a surprise. One wouldn’t expect anything less from someone as professional, determined and as focused as Whyte.

Meanwhile, his legion of fans in the land of Oz might have expected Blake Shinn to take Hong Kong racing by storm. But this hasn’t been the case.

Settling into how things work in this city is a steep learning curve and Shinn seems to be taking everything in stride.

A good rider, he has two winners on board and must realise by now that riding place getters means nought. It’s about riding winners and he’s two ahead of those riders who are still to get off the mark.

Other than the triumvirate of Zac Purton, Joao Moreira and Karis Teetan, next on the jockeys leaderboard is the chasing pack comprising Grant van Niekerk, Aldo Domeyer, Vincent Ho, Chad Schofield, Matthew Poon, Keith Yeung and Alberto Sanna.

Sanna, the man from Sardinia, with the all-important backing of Douglas Whyte, has returned this season with renewed confidence and it’s showing where it counts most- results and in his riding.

No matter who trains a horse, it’s about how well the pilot navigates it. Alberto Sanna’s navigational skills are fine-tuned. It’s a good example of teamwork.

Grant van Niekerk, Chad Schofield, Vincent Ho and Aldo Domeyer also continue to build up their support groups. It augurs well for them. The Chadster, particularly, is on fire. It might have to do with his recent marriage to the former Hannah Butler, the very popular host of Happy Wednesday Fashionistas. We’re sure it is.

As for the HKJC English-speaking Trackside team, well, it plods along to the beat of its own drum, but beating it is hardly Gene Krupa.

The content is more of the same and nothing has really changed from the presentation formats of the Eighties. Only the cast has with the fairly recent news that race caller Brett Davis will return to Adelaide at the end of the year. Who will replace him? There might be a Wish List floating about, but Hong Kong today is hardly the enticing magnet that it once was.

For the HKJC, the rest of the season is going to be a Long March. How the Club managed the October 1 National Day meeting was far more successful than anything the crippled Hong Kong government has been able to achieve.

Having said this, it’s still about playing a waiting game and management through survival…and, hopefully, also taking this “downtime” to look at making some radical changes for the sake of the GLOBAL image of horse racing that have been long overdue.

Think about that for a while. Take your time. But not too much. Time is running out.

In Hong Kong, horse racing MUST survive and be allowed to continue in its own time and space for this city not to be seen as the Titanic with the lifeboats out and Celine Dion promising that her heart will go on.


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