The first race of 2021 got off to a nice, kind and expected start with Joao Moreira duly saluting on the raging favourite. And then, well, then, the first Hong Kong racing meeting of the New Year seemed to enter something like another dimension in time and space eerily like…the Twilight Zone. One almost expected Rod Serling to appear on television and tell audiences that the world had been taken over by zombies.

One doesn’t quite know where and when it started. It was possibly when Douglas Whyte mentioned to Trackside interviewer Edward Sadler that what makes Christophe Soumillon such a good jockey is that he has brains.

This then seemed to activate a chain reaction of Keystone Cops type of concertina incidents in various races that resulted in Vincent Ho being suspended for three days for careless riding and also fined. A couple of others seemed fortunate not to have met the same fate.

There were more misses than hits throughout the afternoon, but the Monty Python Award for Silliness must go to the two presentation ceremonies held after the running of the day’s Cup Races.

Awkward would be putting it mildly as the masked winning parties, adhering to very strict social distancing measures, seemed to be walking on eggshells while giving a tribute performance to the great Marcel Marceau.

Alas, the great mime artist is dead so what one saw were some masked people holding up trophies. Who were they? Depends.

Still, it was four hours of something to watch on television and welcome in 2021 whilst singing, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” and with no one able to provide any answers.

It is what it is and what it isn’t is simply not there.

#HKracing #KeystoneCops #MarcelMarceau #TwilightZone

Could HKJC Trackside interviewer in the hard working and very good Edward Sadler have had a change of heart about leaving Hong Kong? Word was that he was off to take up the role of being a race caller for the Singapore Turf Club and in a city where horse racing travels well below the radar.

Other than him being strong and how horses run for him, Trainer Douglas Whyte speaking to Edward Sadler prior to the running of the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy on what makes Christophe Soumillon special: “Well, he has a brain”.

Well, one certainly saw his strength with a whip on Whyte’s “Stronger” in a very busy (and ugly) race where the $1.7 favourite and top weight Computer Patch ended up last.

At least the goofy specially choreographed social distancing presentation ceremony was not lost on winning Trainer Caspar Fownes whose Explosive Witness won the five horse race for Alexis Badel.

On the subject of some of the players mentioned above, Chinese racing fans were quick to point out how feng shui came into play. We call it karma.

Surprisingly, Karis Teetan lost the ride despite winning and coming second on Computer Patch in the three rides he had on the galloper. The ride went to “Super Sumi” for International Day.

Alas, Christophe Soumillon got tied up in all sorts of very complicated quarantine red tape and never made an appearance on the big day. Merde. The ride then went to Alexis Badel.

Computer Patch was short circuited and was no match for Japan’s Danon Smash in the Hong Kong Sprint. Spooky?

On the New Year’s Day meeting, Soumillon was meant to ride the galloper- but didn’t. He apparently jumped ship and got on “Stronger” for Douglas Whyte. Joao Moreira got the plum ride on Computer Patch and the runner was backed in the Shatin Trophy as if defeat in the five horse field was out of the question. The favourite tailed off last. The winner was Explosive Witness and ridden by…Alexis Badel.


The dark horse in the field waiting on the reserve list to be the next racing jurisdiction is Sri Lanka. Wait. This is not totally accurate as there already is what passes to be horse racing at the Royal Turf Club in Nuwara Eliya in the upcountry region of one of the most beautiful places on God’s green earth.

Nuwara Eliya horse races – SUNDAY OBSERVER

Huh? ROYAL Turf Club in what’s no longer a British colony?

It’s hardly world class racing, but what might be interesting to factor in the amount of investment, especially from Mainland China that no doubt sees the island as a strategic base to keep tabs on India, pouring in.

Meanwhile, with its inexpensive property attracting more from Hong Kong than many think investing in Sri Lanka as a viable option for retirement- and entrepreneurial pursuits like horse racing and a tourist destination based on creating a “New Dubai” could augur well for the island.

The one stumbling block- the same one that has always kept the island from being far more than it is- is a shaky political “platform” and corruption. Then again, what makes this any different from anywhere else in the world?

What’s interesting is that when under British rule and known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka had the only horse racing in Asia with two racecourses, one in Colombo and the other being the existing course n Nuwara Eliya.

Its history included being home to Australian journeyman rider Ted Fordyce aka “The Railwayman”, someone whose backstory started with his days riding in India before marrying a Singhalese girl and settling down in Sri Lanka.

Don’t expect Nuwara Eliya to be another Shatin or Flemington or Longchamps as a Racecourse with world class equine talent, but it would be foolish to dismiss Sri Lanka as an also ran. Its raw potential points to being something far more than this.

All those billionaires from around the region who once visited the island for their annual Elephant Polo Tournament until PETA Asia exposed the brutality involved in the “fun sport” know different.

There might not be anymore Elephant Polo, but those businessmen and their associates have been steadily investing in a future on the island that could yield big returns for a small investment.

Of course as with anything else, for there to be progress, there must be people with vision and a local government able to understand this. Again, one could say the same thing about every country where Third World has levelled out into one world.

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