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

Despite all the talk about the domination of the “duopoly” comprising the world class Australian Zac Attack and the Brazilian Magic Man- Joao Moreira- Karis Teetan crashed that party from as early as the start of this season and rode another treble at Happy Valley last night.

The Mauritian Magician has been giving as good as he gets and, most definitely, matching strides with his two more illustrious colleagues in the jockey ranks.

A couple of months ago, there was talk about who would grab third place in the jockey championship- Vincent Ho, the Hong Kong-born rider who has certainly come into his own this season, or the Karismatic one.

Not to get too ahead of ourselves, but just like the way he surprised and introduced himself to Hong Kong by winning on the first ride of the first race of the 2013-14 racing season when he arrived pretty much an unknown, Karis Teetan has been absorbing it all, learning all the time from successes and mistakes, seemingly looking up to Joao Moreira as his role model, and, whether he knows it or not, building up his own brand.

As with any sportsman, being a brand is something many in horse racing tend to forget- like only Frankie Dettori has successfully done by giving racing fans and those who follow other sports that certain something known as showbiz or pizazz.

Sometimes, it’s an X factor that is discovered and cultivated. Joao Moreira has it. Ryan Moore doesn’t. His priorities are about being the best. He’s great the way he is. Ryan Moore isn’t suddenly going to become a wild and crazy guy and do the Moonwalk across racecourses.

Having said this, in horse racing, it’s not only about being a great jockey. It’s about looking at and marketing one’s “business model”, especially in today’s constantly changing media landscape and where the image of horse racing which is fighting for the same consumer dollar as every other leisure activity could do with a mighty big facelift for it to have a future. Deal with it.

Whereas Joao Moreira has his own bilingual Facebook page and Zac Purton uses Instagram, Twitter and Facebook strategically, and far more selectively these days to keep connected with his strong fan following, Karis Teetan is interacting with those who, especially these days, shun the now dated and predictable online news feed that is Twitter and the more “mature” Facebook, on the very immediate and younger Instagram.

Here, he’s showing fans more about his personal life- where he’s holidaying, his family, what he’s wearing, where he’s eating, and how he’s enjoying life with his fiancé Xaviere.

Racing clubs and social media agencies hired to market and make horse racing more “consumer friendly” for those “younger people” could learn from how some of these jockeys use these various online delivery platforms- and effectively by not overthinking it.

Hopefully, this will lead to more outward thinking and that, for example, jockeys are people, too- younger people- and fun and doing their best to be happy. As they say, one picture is worth a thousand words. The one below says so much. And without the obligatory slo-mo shots and spooky background music.

As for Karis Teetan, some of us know his backstory- the very humble beginnings in Mauritius, everything his father did to save enough money to give his son the opportunity to enrol at the well-respected South African Jockeys Academy, graduate, prove himself in that country before the HKJC came knocking on his door. Yaaaahooo!!!

Before arriving here, all I heard from friend and racing writer Robyn Louw in South Africa is that he was a natural riding talent with attractive high cheekbones and someone easy going and very approachable. Robyn was right. Karis has high cheekbones.

Over the years, we have also seen a young rider do everything possible to improve himself. And he hasn’t stopped. He’s proven himself with a short, successful riding stint in Japan where he’s seen what the racing- not just the quality of the equine talent and the various perks- is like over there. But his focus is Hong Kong.

In early December, he won his first Hong Kong International Jockeys Championship by out-gunning names like Dettori, Moore, Purton, Moreira, De Sousa etc.

Sure, these International Jockey Championships often come down to the luck of the draw, but winning one of these is great for the portfolio. It’s certainly good for the Mauritian Magician as it followed up riding a five-timer at Shatin whereas after booting home a few more winners, it was that treble at Happy Valley last night.

The fastest jockey on two legs in Hong Kong, Karis Teetan seems determined and driven to stay ahead of the chasing pack and outrun those ahead of him.

He’s riding for almost every stable and is the Go To jockey for trainer Tony Cruz, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a good jockey great.

A week ago, Hong Kong racing’s latest trainer, Douglas Whyte, the former multiple championship winning jockey out here, entrusted- and that’s a key word- Teetan with his impressive new purchase and first starter Will Power. The result: An excellent training effort, yes, but an equally well-judged winning ride.

Karis Teetan? Happy to play second fiddle? Don’t bet on that. He’s taken off and flying high. The sky’s the limit.

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