By Hans Ebert

Made In Hong Kong products have become an endangered species. A rarity. It makes one wonder if we’ll wake up here one day and find ourselves in the city that never existed.

Almost overnight, we have seen “old Hong Kong” all but disappear- the traditional dim sum restaurants, the old world charm of many areas in Hong Kong, the wet markets, sampans, Double Happiness matchboxes. The neighbourhood tailor shops,where suits were once made in a few hours. The always fashionable looking cheongsam.

The Hong Kong film industry is on life support. Has been for decades but it seems that no one has noticed. And no matter what anyone says, the city’s music industry stalled in the nineties. Canto Pop popped and sounded pooped. Audiences weaned on Canto Pop were happy to be force fed nostalgia by those never satisfied with having enough.

There is, however, one Made In Hong Kong product that not only remains intact, it serves as a reminder of how far this city has come. And how, while this product continues, there’s always hope.

Though having often being used as a lucrative stopover to all those salesmen and hucksters with no sense of real belonging to this city, underneath it all, there’s always been something special about Hong Kong. It’s a magnet. Something very special that made it home to many. It’s a city that’s somehow and at some time in one’s life has always brought people back. Well, it did, anyway.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack to the city were always those thundering hooves.

Throughout the years, horse racing has given Hong Kong a pulse. And hope. It’s a stress buster and chill pill.

It’s impossible to think of this city without horse racing. And there’s no reason to think this will change.

Horse racing is a Made In Hong Kong product that’s now also a global brand. The best racing jurisdiction in the world.

Behind it all the multi dimensional Hong Kong Jockey Club. Led by Chief Executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the HKJC is always on the front foot when it comes to ensuring that everything is kept ticking over smoothly and with nothing falling through the cracks.

The jockeys and trainers who are part of today’s racing fraternity come from Brazil, Mauritius, Australia, South Africa, France, Ireland, and, of course, Hong Kong. It’s a team as international and cosmopolitan as the city itself. All are and if still here continue to be ambassadors for the city.

At a time when the world is waiting to see where everything is leading, keeping it positive is easier said than done. But following the horses in Hong Kong at least makes the journey more enjoyable.

Even those in this city who are not diehard fans of the sport are seeing the “healing power” of horse racing. What it adds to the resilience of Hong Kong. How it’s helped to carry on despite the protests, the violence. The Men In Black reminding one of the Droogs in Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. A government increasingly under siege…

As for the racing fan- more often than not, from the grassroots sector of Hong Kong- as long as there’s horse racing, there’s a hobby that’s become part of a lifestyle. The riders are their Rock stars.

A jockey’s life anywhere is not an easy one. There’s everything that goes into keeping fit. Keeping one’s head down and always knowing that you’re only as good as your last win.

In Hong Kong, after ten months of competing twice a week and pushing mind and body to its limits, there’s a need to switch off. But this was not to be this year.

With all the travel restrictions that’s become the norm during The Age Of Coronavirus, these athletes were grounded. It couldn’t have been easy. But talking to most of them, they’ve not only managed, for some it’s given them the time to prioritise, reconnect and reset. It’s been inspiring to listen and learn from them.

On September 5, the new racing season starts again at Shatin.

Away from the public eye are the thousands working behind the scenes to ensure that this show goes on. Like those working at the Off Course Betting Centres. The faceless and patient people behind the Telebet services. The vets. The track work riders. Those maintaining the tracks. Those behind the barriers etc.

The HKJC byproduct that is the Happy Wednesday brand will continue. But online where there’ll still be music. There’ll still be the rest of the now popular support card. Competitions while showing the lives of jockeys in a more conversational and consumer friendly manner.

The keyword to everything will be Engagement.

As for the unique Made In Hong Kong product that is Hong Kong racing, this will continue to make strides as it always has.

With this now very much being a Made For Television product and available online, how it will change and become part of the online world with the need for new content and how it’s presented is something that will be interesting to follow.

One thing is certain: With much riding on its success, Made In Hong Kong racing will continue to lead by example.

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