By Hans Ebert

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and at Shatin on Sunday, there was smoke billowing towards the course from a fire near the Ma On Shan Country Park. When you think things couldn’t get worse…On course, meanwhile, was the now familiar sight of a few hundred people wearing masks and just to bring something different- and sanitised- into the mix, fist pumping each other after one of their horses won.

It was slightly different television content as we watched this new kinda outré way of taking in Hong Kong racing from home confinement and where many are too paranoid of the coronavirus to step outside and smell the dim sum. There might not have been an Alligator Blood or Hanseatic, but there was some good, competitive racing.

Amazing Beats, looked for all the world as if he had lost the drummer for good, but Karis Teetan had other ideas. Rewind was replaced by the pilot pressing Fast Forward. Like Stella did, Amazing Beats got its groove back and won in a photo finish…by a nose.

For the Mauritian Magician, who was going through a rare barren spell, finding his wand again and riding this winner- the middle pin in a pretty long-priced treble- meant there was quite a bit of fist pumping.

This was especially true after him winning the last race of the day on Mr Aldan and getting back into the good books of trainer Tony Cruz. For a while there, it looked as if Putha Man was like Simon Cowell auditioning new riders for his runners with the Karismatic One’s relationship with the stable, well, teetering. But winning the last race surely must have brought about peace in the valley? The fist pumping after that win had more going for it than a Dance track by Mr Pitbull.

Elsewhere, in the Hong Kong Classic Cup, there was the very good win of of the very good Golden Sixty.

Despite the incredible run of success in the here and now for the team of Vincent CY Ho and Francis Lui with this galloper, there’s often the feeling that they’re still playing second fiddle to what’s next for Beauty Generation and Exultant- not any trips to Dubai, that’s for sure- and the future plans of trainer John Moore who faces compulsory retirement from Hong Kong racing at the end of this season.

Does Australia beckon for the most successful trainer Hong Kong racing will probably ever see? With his track record and clients and contacts, why not? Possibly a niche “limited edition” stable where small is beautiful and attracting le creme de la creme and that Jungle Jim wardrobe making way for something more Bling Crosby? But really, who cares? The long goodbye is getting longer.

When the history books are written about what’s going on in Hong Kong today and what might be in store tomorrow, this very much downsized version of horse racing will be mentioned.

Like the champion sprinter Silent Witness became a glimmer of hope for Hong Kong under the huge cloud of the SARS outbreak, one hopes that the story of Golden Sixty isn’t left choking in the dust and ignored completely because of the coverage given to almost a year of social unrest, a government offering no solutions and now the coronavirus.

As for tonight’s Twilight Zone races at Happy Valley, well, with Joao Moreira and Grant van Niekerk serving out suspensions on careless riding charges, the riding engagements are a scattered and even surprising with some interesting runners competing.

For example, the Tony Cruz trained Hong Kong Bet, which will forever be associated with the cancellation of a race meeting during those recent days of future past because of one of the three owners of the galloper being pro-Beijing and very much controversial and loathed lawmaker Junius Ho, will take his place in the eighth of tonight’s races.

Junius Ho slams protests, storms off TV debate – RTHK

Though much has been made of the divisive Ho having sold his shares in the galloper, it’s not a story embraced by everyone- not when this former owner showed up on course recently as a guest of the now two owners the first day Hong Kong Bet ran after its self imposed ban. It doesn’t make for good television. It barely makes sense.

At a time when there are less than 400 people on course due to serious government imposed restrictions to contain what’s now morphed into COVID-19 with the public being locked out along with the closure of Off Betting Centres and the cancellation of Telebet services, horse racing in Hong Kong doesn’t need a polarising figure like Junius Ho muddying the waters even more.

It needs a clear path forward without more hurdles and angst to an already cluttered obstacle course.

#HKracing #coronavirus #juniusho #goldensixty #vincentho #francislui #johnmoore