By Hans Ebert

It was meant to be a favourites day. We all said it would be- at least those who know a thing or two about horse racing- and those who think they know everything about horse racing. But, as the pastime has proven time and time again, in racing, as in life, there’s no such thing as a certainty.

The racing game is often a crap shoot and where the best laid plans, all those interviews with the major players, studying form, track work, speed maps and listening to tipsters bite the dust and nothing comes out according to the script. There’s always a rewrite waiting offstage. As Dylan would say, waiting around the corner is a simple twist of fate. John Lennon called it Instant Karma.

And so it was with Hong Kong’s Champion Day. Of the three Group 1 races and where the team of The Zac Attack and champion trainer John Moore were meant to dominate and headline the show with Aethero and, especially, Beauty Generation. In the wash up, only the Tony Cruz trained favourite Exultant with Zac Purton on board saluted and won the QE11 Cup.

Aethero went amiss in the Chairman’s Sprint. The race completed a treble for the Mauritian Magician- Karis Teetan- who rode a beauty of a race to get old timer Mr Stunning home first.

In the Hong Kong Mile, favourite Beauty Generation dug deep- very deep- but not deep enough to stave off the challenge of Southern Legend and Vincent CY Ho.

It continued the remarkable season that the Hong Kong-born rider is having, especially through his winning partnership with Golden Sixty- and now adding the Group 1 Champion Mile to his portfolio.

Prior to the race was an interview with John Moore where he was asked about the chances of Beauty Generation. He couldn’t see his champion galloper being beaten. Few could. When asked how he felt about this being his last Hong Hong Champions Day as, at 70, he faces compulsory retirement, his reply was rather coy. There was a touch of Blue Steel to his reply. You know- Zoolanderish.

The reply was almost in code for the racing world to decipher despite all the reports of the champion trainer ending his career in Hong Kong and continuing to train- albeit in Sydney. It could be broken down to him perhaps having other ideas. How, with everything he has given Hong Kong racing, and his powerful network of supporters, that, just perhaps, he might be staying on in some new role?

Perhaps managing an owners syndicate comprising big names in Hong Kong racing like, let’s say, Boniface Chan? Or competing with popular former female apprentice Kei Chiong whose career as a newbie bloodstock agent is up and running after finding and purchasing the brilliant Golden Sixty? Anyway, back to Champions Day…

The three Group races aside, the support card was not without its surprises. Other than two long priced winners in races three and four conjured up by the Mauritian Magician, apprentice Alfred Chan rose to the big occasion with a long priced double for Douglas Whyte- Relentless Me and General’s Delight.

This year was no doubt a practice run for next season and when the guile of Whyte will almost certainly be targeting this particular race day and the Hong Kong International Races.

What are the odds that if he’s not committed to riding any Japanese raiders and the world is in the “new normal” after months of social distancing and living under a very dark shadow, Joao Moreira would not be on Douglas Whyte’s big new guns?

Speaking of which, the Magic Man chipped in with a treble. There were winners for John Size, and John Moore. In the race that saw $1.40 pop Wellington meet its Waterloo and not run a place, he thoroughly enjoyed watching the replay on the big screen of his winning ride on the aptly named Fantastic Show for trainer Me Y.S.Tsui.

Was this FWD Champions Day a success? As a four hour television special in Hong Kong on a Sunday afternoon, definitely. After months of social distancing etc, television has made a huge comeback.

As a viewer of horse racing, do I miss the on course excitement? Not at all. The socialising and being with like-minded people and friends, yes.

It was interesting listening to the very knowledgeable Jim McGrath being interviewed on Tabradio this morning. Jim, who was very much part of racing in Hong Kong during the seventies trotted out names like Geoff Lane, Peter Gumbleton, Rod Turvey, Bob Burns etc while also admitting that, now as part of a television audience, how he didn’t miss not seeing crowds at the races.

It’s something for the HKJC to take on board. That the media landscape has changed forever. How it’s now more important than ever to improve the television racing product and which must lead to enhancing the on course experience.

For example, why not have a Trackside host at the very much neglected venue that is Haymarket, below, at Shatin?

Wouldn’t this help attract more people to that racecourse just as Happy Wednesday attracts a younger customer demographic to Happy Valley?

There’s more. But there’s no point spinning one’s wheels if they’re going nowhere and few understand that horse racing, like every other industry, must change. And the importance of change if this pastime is to be relevant in this “new normal” that we now find ourselves in and might even be quite content being here.

#HKracing #ChampionsDay #JohnMoore #KeiChiong #KarisTeetan #JimMcGrath #ZacPurton #JoaoMoreira #AlfredChan #DouglasWhyte #newnormal