It made sense that the first race of the night- The Australia Handicap- would be won by reigning champion Hong Kong jockey Zac Purton.

Actually, that win by the Zac Attack set the theme for the night. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to attend the After Race Party at Adrenaline and then magically be transported to the club dragon-i later, and then later still ending up at Players down Jaffe Road where time stood still, shed a little tear thinking of those boogie nights that have gone forever.

Somehow, they added to what was so often the surreal vibes enveloping HKIJC night that had nothing whatsoever to do with horse racing. Still..,

This first race might have been a lowly Class 5 race, and with all riders having to compete wearing masks for the first time and which couldn’t have been easy, but it didn’t matter. The International Jockeys Championship at Happy Valley Racecourse had begun with an interesting enough undercard.

The poster for the event kinda screamed out, well, many things. Things like A Saucer Full Of Secrets, Green Floyd and the mad genius of cult filmmaker Ed Wood.

This was all before the real business at hand got underway starting with the first leg of the Championship in the fourth race.

With Hong Kong going through its fourth Covid curve- and its most serious one with almost a Big Brother Is Watching paranoia gripping a city lacking in good vibes, we who live here desperately needed a stress buster.

Whether racing fans or not, what was on offer gave many something to interest them.

With nightlife barely having a pulse and many preferring to stay at home and maintain a distance from any potential “clusters”, we had our own small HKIJC party at home. It wasn’t about winning as having bragging rights for correctly guessing the results.

Known for its competitive and tight finishes, the second race of the night at Happy Valley didn’t disappoint. In a blanket finish, the winners saw a dead heat between the gallopers ridden by the Zac Attack and Alexis Badel with Vincent Ho a close up third. The names of the horses? No idea. It was another Class 5 event with the close finish giving the race the simple thrill of winning.

With Joao Moreira winning the third race, time was ticking into the future and the first leg of the International Jockeys Championship.

There weren’t the usual fireworks display, but there was something resembling a light show and a visual of the twelve jockeys competing. It looked as if they had landed in the middle of the track inside a teacup shaped flying saucer.There was no need to smoke a spliff. We live in weird enough times.

After a pretty lengthy introduction to all the stars of the show, the race began and it didn’t take long for the Brazilian magic man to strike. He drove relative outsider Gouten Of Garo to the front and stole the race from there earning 12 points for his winning efforts. It was a ride full of the derring do one has come to expect from Joao Moreira.

The second leg of the Jockey challenge went to Alexis Badel on the 18-1 shot Gallant Crown. To be brutally frank, few of us had heard of the horse, let alone giving the Tony Millard trained galloper any chance of winning. Still…

Two legs of the competition down and it was 12 points each to Hong Kong based riders Moreira and Badel. It was then back to the undercard for one race- won by the very underrated Hong Kong rider Derek Leung-before it was crunch time and the two final legs of the jockeys championship.

When Zac won the third leg aboard the Tony Millard trained Gift Of Lifetime, one couldn’t help stifling a laugh.

It’s no secret that “Millie” refuses to put the rider on any of his horses after some war of words back in the year 2015. But karma is a strange beast at the best of times and in the draw for riders and their rides for this evening’s showpiece, the Zac Attack was gifted the ride on Gift Of Lifetime.

After the race, “Millie”, the most successful trainer of the night, was cajoled by Zac to stand closer to him for the winning photo. It was an awkward moment, but also hugely entertaining television fare.

Onto more serious matters, after this race, Moreira and Purton were leading the International Jockeys Championship with eighteen points each.

As had been tipped by most of us all week, Hollie Doyle won the last leg aboard the highly rated David Hayes runner Harmony N Blessed.

With Zac’s ride placing and Joao’s outsider finishing out of the money, the 2020 Hong Kong International Jockeys Championship went to our champion rider.

There was one more race as part of the undercard where we guessed correctly and 43-1 shot Glorious Artist made it a winning double for jockey Derek Leung. And then it was over.

Sunday at Shatin and when the four Group 1 HKIR races will take centre stage amidst the pomp and circumstance of a brittle 2020.

This is when almost all of Australia will believe that Classique Legend will win the Hong Kong Sprint after demolishing the field at its last run in Sydney- we don’t share this optimism- and Golden Sixty will take out the Mile. He will.

Our thoughts however will turn to this year’s International Jockeys Championship. It was a cult classic without even knowing it. Not even cult film maker Ed Wood and his cast of regulars could have topped it.

#HKIJC #HKIR #ZacPurton #TonyMillard #HollieDoyle #EdWood #HKracing