By Hans Ebert

Frankly, I don’t think I have ever heard Joao Moreira so excited when talking about his rides, but mainly about the season he’s having and where he’s way ahead of the chasing pack. Joao kinda sounded like a chihuahua who’d swallowed a speedball and Tweety bird. And who can blame him?

Perhaps it was the Magic Man excited to be interviewed by Edward Sadler for the HKJC’s long-running “Racing To Win” masterpiece theatre production, but one suspects it might have had to do with another buncha coconuts- his partnerships and incredible strike rates for Caspar Fownes and John Size.

The two leading trainers in Hong Kong this season, Joao Moreira is managing a precarious balancing act incredibly well, and has ridden 22 winners for each. Think about that and do the maths.

Listening to the very astute Brazilian rider who’s a brilliant diplomat, he said all the right things about both trainers- that they’re good guys, there’s great teamwork involved, there’s no unnecessary pressure and with this season’s trainers championship going to go down to the wire.

In other words, as he’s so good at doing, he said much without really saying anything. It’s like when asked if this and that ride of his can win to which he now famously replies, “Why not?”

Of course, John Size and Caspar Fownes were not born yesterday and realise the importance of having options.

As when he recently turned to Blake Shinn for the winning ride in the Hong Kong Classic Mile on Excellent Proposal, size matters and John Size knows it’s all about horses for courses- and maybe a soupçon of karma.

The booking of Shinn was also intriguing as he was caught up in the crossfire hurricane of a well-publicised fallout with a rightfully angry Douglas Whyte for failing to show up to trial one of the trainer’s runners.

With there still being no signs of any rekindled Whyte-Size love fest between one of the most successful teams in Hong Kong racing, one has to wonder about that booking of Shinn by Size- and who delivered in spades. Does one really need to spell it out?

Away from throwbacks to Brokeback Mountain, John Size intuitively knows that if Joao Moreira has taken a ride for another stable in a race where he has a runner, which riders he can call on.

These could be anyone from Karis Teetan and Alexis Badel to Vagner Borges. What’s also revealing are those jockeys he doesn’t use. Same goes for Casibah.

Cas places a high premium on loyalty. Behind all the whooping it up when training a winner, it comes down to trust and knowing who he wants to support.

His team includes his former apprentice Vincent CY Ho, and more recently, taking on current apprentice Alfred Chan in a move to help the young rider boot home some winners and turn his luck and confidence around.

He’ll also look outside of the square and offer rides to some surprising choices- but, as with giving Keith Yeung a winner this season on Dances With Dragon- there are those he’s crossed off his list. One strike and you’re out. By now, we know the list.

What’s interesting right now and when priorities have changed while others knee deep in the game are feeling that racing has become a tad predictable and, well, tedious as the world grapples with the beast of burden known as Covid, stories like the Moreira, Size, Casibah triumvirate provides the pastime with a different type of interest than trying to find a winner.

This type of entertainment, and all the stories coming out of the rumour mill, has quickly become more interesting to audiences- not customers during these lockdown days, but television audiences.

Audiences and audience tastes have changed almost overnight as has the horse racing media landscape.

The old ways are just that: old ways.

It’s like catching a snippet of a television commercial on CNN last night for some race day coming up in Meydan in March and my companion turning to me and asking, “They still produce crap like that? Why?” Why, indeed. Perhaps hackneyed work like this works- something no different to how it’s been promoted for around three decades.

It shows a once popular pastime in certain countries plodding away on borrowed time. Whoever is managing the store and believes that regurgitating the same old same old still works and remains a juicy carrot, are travelling in a different zone with Rod Serling as their guide. Spooky.

#hkracing #horseracing #joaomoreira #johnsize #casparfownes #marketing #oldschool #Meydan #blakeshinn