By Hans Ebert

Even a two horse race needs to be kept on its toes, though after watching the last race of the night at Happy Valley on Wednesday, it’s hard to imagine that The Zac Attack and The Magic Man on Dances With Dragon and Enrichment, respectively, giving their everything right to the very end, have anyone come close to the talent and human resolve and horsemanship that they possess.

That particular race on Wednesday night had it all and will go down as the race of this Hong Kong racing season. Maybe of every other Hong Kong racing season.

Because of these two riders, a fairly average Class 2 race became as important as any Group 1 race. More importantly, it didn’t matter. It was sports entertainment at its best. It was pure, unadulterated horse racing starring two world class riders and with nothing to do with a tacky prize money tag attached to it, or one of those pop-up races propped up and bamboozled by hype.

While Joao Moreira and Zac Purton continue practising social distancing in Hong Kong at the top of the jockeys leaderboard- and for a fleeting few minutes forget how we ever got to wherever it is that we are- a frequent thorn in their sides is a supporting cast led by the Mauritian Magician- Karis Teetan along with Chad Schofield, Vincent Ho and very possibly a new name to the riding ranks in Frenchman Antoine Hamelin.

Non horse racing friends will roll their eyes listening to me go on about all this. And that’s fine. Really. After all, I have a problem, especially these days when reworking my mind map to prioritise life, hearing those from “racing and sports” channels talk breathlessly about things like “Friday fill-ups” whereas on the world of Twitter, there are those usual suspects who talk from both sides of their mouths. Again, no problemo.

Having said this, as a relatively experienced marketing person and always interested in what can appeal to the next generation- and how- horse racing cannot continue to follow the same weather-beaten track that it has always taken.

Often there’s the feeling that the rest of the world has moved on, but horse racing is still stuck in the barriers doing the hokey pokey. For all the talk about being “customercentric”, there’s that failure to communicate effectively about its very own product. It’s still about holding onto the past- every aspect of the past including its dwindling captive audience.

This is why, opportunities like The Zac And Joao Show with its international supporting cast and cameos are so important. Opportunities like these should be packaged and served sizzling hot twice a week as a long form television series with short form reminders that the Hong Kong Jockeys Premiership is at stake. Emphasise how the excitement attached makes for damn compelling viewing. It can be a very good introduction to horse racing through a real life human interest story.

As for today’s generation, yes, it’s spoiled for choice. Why can’t horse racing be one of these choices? What’s wrong in making this a key marketing objective? What’s wrong in giving horse racing a facelift Cher would envy?

Horse racing, at least in Hong Kong, is like the city itself- international, vibrant, never boring, colourful, resilient and interwoven with everything else that makes this place tick and tock and roll with the punches. And in this Covid-19 world and where the world is certain to change after we have tamed the beast, or we have finally learned some life lessons the tough way, where will horse racing fit in the grand scheme of things? That’s hard to say.

Where will anything fit in the “new normal” where the environment has finally decided to wage war on humankind for destroying its home? Mother Earth is mightily pissed off that she’s now having to clean up the mess that all of us, in one way or another, have not only created, but desecrated.

Of course, all this will mean that the world, and no one country, able to trump the other and having to change with the times. We’re all in this together.

For businesses, it’s again a very loud wake up call from Mother Earth and the Forces Of Nature to adapt to a new world order that includes new customer wants and needs- but without greed and hoarding that thing called wealth.

For horse racing, surely it’s time to look at things like who will make up the new group of owners and what will entice them to invest in the sport? And if racing is deemed attractive enough and adheres to the lessons learned from this pandemic, who might the New Consumer in the New Normal of this Brave New World bring along for the ride?

It’s stating the bloody obvious to say that the world is in the midst of huge change- in our thinking, in what we choose to do with our time, how we look at everything around us these days and the life lessons to be learned from doing this.

How will horse racing be viewed? No one knows. One can only speculate, but, personally, I don’t see it being anything like what it’s seemingly desperately trying to cling onto.

Who knows, maybe the wonderful and very unique Happy Valley Racecourse will, in time, become an environmentally friendly theme park with horse racing once a week? Maybe the track at Shatin will reinvent itself into an ongoing carnival where, other than horse racing, the main attractions will focus on positivity?

In the meantime, there’s The Zac And Joao And Friends Show where when cheering on their on course exploits, we’re also cheering ourselves on to bring some good into this new normal by not repeating the mistakes of the past.

And by so doing, eventually, the image of horse racing might be radically changed to become one of the cheerleaders needed and with the magic of the horse leading the charge…and bringing about the changes that Mother Earth is demanding.

Gone barking mad? Nah. Perhaps just finally able to see the forest for the trees and, unlike the sheeples, not being easily led by the nose and believing and sharing everything one reads.

This crap gets us nowhere and why we’re now where we are: Everywhere and nowhere when we could be somewhere.

#ZacPurton #JoaoMoreira #KarisTeetan #ChadSchofield #VincentCYHo #AntoineHamelin #HKracing #horseracing #Covid-19 #newnormal #MotherEarth #environmentallyfriendly #changes #postivity