By Hans Ebert

Auspicious, bizarre, surreal, stupid, would be putting it mildly to many in Australia trying to enjoy watching the start of the first race of the biggest day in Hong Kong racing- the HKIR.

Here is what was billed as the “World Turf Championships”. The event had been tweeted and promoted and talked about for at least a month. It’s not something that had sneaked up on the racing world. And yet…

With us having to give this race day a miss for the first time in a very long time due to the restrictions put on those allowed to attend, we decided to head out to Repulse Bay and have a relaxing lunch in the open spaces of Spices. Why go through another form of “quarantine” and be in lockdown at home to watch some of the best riders in the world competing against each other…on television?

How what is now very much a television product is presented to audiences spoilt for choice is still something racing clubs need to get their heads around. This isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Horse racing on television certainly robs a race day like today of its importance- of its pomp and circumstance and the global image of the sport or pastime or whatever those who are casual followers of these events think racing is.

It would be interesting to know what they think. It stops second guessing these audiences. And there are two generations of potential racing fans out there who are none the wiser how anything works and why they should care.

Meanwhile, on one of those racing and sports radio stations in Australia, heard was a bungle in the jungle of races from Bordertown and harness racing in Shepparton with a snippet of the first Hong Kong race sandwiched in the middle.

Watching a replay of what was sent over, audiences watching Sky1 were treated to a split screen of the Bordertown races and the first at Shatin followed by a full screen shot of the very end of the race from Hong Kong- without the commentary. It was then immediately back to Bordertown. The results of the Hong Kong race? Not shown.

If back in Oz and listening to Tabtouch radio, there wasn’t even any commentary of the second race in Hong Kong racing. The third race had to make way for a local race at Bunbury.

Hong Kong, where William Buick won this in yet another of the city’s well known close finishes or a race in Bunbury? For Tabtouch, Bunbury. This is not to say that the races at Bunbury are unimportant to those who know and follow Chris Parnham,Jason Whiting etc far more than they do William Buick. After all, we’re different with very different priorities.

Of course, none of this about the coverage of Hong Kong races in Australia is hardly ground breaking exclusive news. It’s been happening for 4-5 years. It’s something I watched with a smirk a couple of years ago when in Melbourne and wondered why this was happening when there’s Sky 1, Sky 2 and Sky Central?

Who’s monitoring any of this? Is the HKJC still paying for this “service”? If it is, why? Where’s the return on interest? What’s going on? Are politics involved? Or is it simply about not caring enough to think beyond what’s done on Remote?

At Shatin today was not some tired looking all-dirt meeting or another casual showpiece for horses in the lower classes. This was a truly global race meeting starring international riders like Ryan Moore, William Buick, Mikhael Barzalona and Tom Marquand matching wits and skills with Hong Kong’s Zac Purton, Joao Moreira and Vincent CY Ho.

From what we saw- the four major races and a couple of others- everything was well presented- and as good as it gets under the circumstances. Panning and tracking by empty grandstands is downright eerie, but this is how the world is today: Eerie.

Highlights? Ryan Moore winning the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase on Mogul for Aiden O’ Brien.

Next? Well, the next race and where Ryan Moore took out the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint for Japan on Danon Smash despite having drawn out in barrier 14.

Disappointing was the run of Hot King Prawn whereas it was no surprise to see Classique Legend never ever being a factor in the race. Time will tell his future in Hong Kong.

Of course, there was the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile and the brilliant win of Golden Sixty for the team of jockey Vincent Ho, trainer Francis Lui and owner Stanley Chan Ka-leung.

This win was also a much-needed psychological win for Hong Kong, a city very much in limbo these days and many making plans to leave. It’s had a terrific run, but nothing lasts forever.

In the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup, there was a very very good and extremely clever winning ride by Zac Purton on Japan’s Normcore.

The win- and we won’t be at all surprised if this leads to other opportunities for the reigning champion Hong Kong jockey- made the Zac Attack the jockey with the most Group 1 wins in HKIR races. It’s a fantastic accomplishment.

Still, as far as winning on the day is concerned, nothing can take away from the FOUR wins of Vincent CY Ho including running away with the Hong Kong Mile aboard Golden Sixty.

#HKIR #HKracing #GoldenSixty #VincentCYHo #RyanMoore #ZacPurton