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

It’s really been about life in the fast (Damian) Lane in the past couple of weeks in the land Down Under.

After winning the Caulfield Cup last Saturday on the Japanese runner Mer De Glace, the extremely likeable rider repeated the dose yesterday at Moonee Valley when Lys Gracieux won the Cox Plate for veteran trainer Yoshita Yahagi with contemptuous ease and showed the world why he’s one of the top rated horses in Japan.

There really wasn’t much for the home team to cheer about yesterday with pre Cox Plate wins for the Aiden O’Brien trained and Ryan Moore ridden Hunting Horn and Jamie Spencer winning narrowly- but strongly- on the UK galloper Chief Ironside.

Writing in the racing pages of the SCMP, Tom Biddington lamented the lack of simultaneous broadcasts in Hong Kong, especially when it comes to the bigger races from Australia- and rightfully so as there was nothing shown from Cox Plate Day and just two races from Caulfield Cup Day.

It was a pity, but, the HKJC knows what works best for them, especially when it comes to turnover, all the different meanings attached to the word “popularity” and what makes good business sense. It’s not for us to argue when the numbers don’t lie and respond to daft questions from wannabe sporting intelligentsia on Twitter.

It is what it is though some of the recent broadcasts from the UK and Europe have hardly had one jumping up and down with excitement. It was hardly great viewing with the huge discrepancy in odds between “over there” and home base plus the oddest odds in the newspapers not helping things along with a smattering of second and third hand news with no one- not even John Gosden- able to really say much about the track conditions and who might be able to handle the going.

After watching two races, we left the apartment to enjoy our Saturday night with friends who wouldn’t know Stradivarius from a fiddle. Betting blind is hardly time well spent.

Having said this, the simulcasts of the races from Japan are extremely popular with local racing fans for the simple reason that they enjoy seeing the country’s champion horses win. They learn much from these wins.

Forget the shaky camerawork, the standard of these broadcasts that still have veteran race caller Murray Baker plodding along whereas apart from Christopher Lemaire and Yugo Kawada, below, along with the godlike status of Yutake Take, the jockey ranks are hardly overflowing with great riding talent.

This lack of good riding talent, something rarely mentioned, is why Joao Moreira was- and probably still is- taking extensive lessons to read and write Japanese as fluently as Frenchman Lemaire in order to gain a full-time licence to ride in Japan. It’s going to be tough.

Brilliant horses, however, make even cowboys look good. Just ask Hopalong Cassidy. And though the riding ranks are weak, like many things in Japan, its breeding industry is a finely tuned and high technology factory for gallopers to continue making a great and Deep Impact at home and abroad. Get on one of these super horses and you’re set for life.

For those foreign jockeys fortunate enough to be granted even a three month license to ride in Japan- and the country’s very different courses- it’s about getting into the good books of owners like the all-powerful Yoshida racing dynasty and the all-round, all-purpose team they have built around their “product” over the years. They have made the breeding of their horses an exacting science.

Over the years, very few jockeys have made these short-term contracts work for them. There are traditional procedures in place just as there are in the Japanese entertainment and fashion industries. It’s understanding and respecting these.

In the end, it’s all about who wants to know you and where they are in that totem pole of power. It’s all about power.

Damian Lane made his time in Japan work for him- and not in any conniving manner. By not trying to impress, he impressed the right people, on and off the track. He quickly became an “idol jockey”.

Having met him some years ago when a fresh faced kid in Hong Kong on a short-term riding license, being abroad was something completely new to him. He was likeable, unaffected, he wasn’t a smart arse, he took everything in his stride and made the most of his time here. It was an important learning curve.

His recent time in Japan simply clicked for the gifted young rider. It’s all about timing. He endeared himself to the “right” trainers and owners and, perhaps, those even behind some of the owners. It didn’t take long for Damian Lane to find himself riding and winning aboard many of Japan’s best young gallopers.

Of course everything he saw and learned in Japan meant that he knew the huge difference between the pretty average Caulfield Cup winner by Japanese standards and the very very good and well-credentialed Lys Gracieux. And this showed in their performances.

If there was a simulcast of the Cox Plate, Lys Gracieux would have been way in the red in Hong Kong. It had been labelled a certainty by many astute punters here almost ten days earlier. To still get fixed odds of $3.60 on race day and $2.50 at the off with 65 cents to place were hugely generous odds. Also well over the odds were Hunting Horn and Chief Ironside.

So, when it comes to “Educating Rita” and those in the racing game, some of these simulcasts of overseas races- some- work, especially for students of form who couldn’t care less about the quality of the production and are happy being able to switch the Mute button.

Meanwhile, there’s racing at Sha Tin this afternoon- a “pulsating” nine races on the all-weather track.

Originally scheduled to be a day meeting at Happy Valley, but with every Sunday, for at least the past five months, being time for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters to don masks and take their frustrations out on anything and everyone who stand in their way, the meeting was moved to the more “rural” area of Hong Kong.

This is where there’s still been some violent clashes between the masked police and their masked enemy, but nothing to match the free-for-alls that have rained in other parts of the city.

Sunday in Hong Kong these days is time to visit one of the outlying islands or have a chilled lunch out in Repulse Bay at Spices.

As for the racing? We’re giving it a miss. A tip? We’re told that Blake Shinn and Joao Moreira should be amongst the winners.

Some riding here certainly need some quick home runs before the impending arrival in Hong Kong of Silvestre de Sousa and Pierre-Charles Boudot and when getting on winning rides becomes even more difficult than it is now.

#HKracing #CoxPlate #CaulfieldCup #DamianLane #LysGracieux #horseracing