I’ve met “Diggers” aka Digby Beacham who’s with TABradio once. This was a couple of years ago at Adrenaline during a Happy Wednesday night at Happy Valley Racecourse as the guest of visiting WA Trainer Simon “Ricky Martin” Miller.

We keep in touch “intermittently” and it was interesting to tune in when he and co-host Tim Walker and RSN Racing and Sports journalist Matt Stewart were discussing the current “logjam” affecting coverage of the racing from WA and Victoria on Sky, where there are the occasions when split screens are used to squeeze in content not originating from New South Wales.

On Sunday in Hong Kong, the FWD Champions Day ‘live’ broadcast on Sky didn’t have a pulse. It was put on hold because of something to do with Anzac Day and resumed after four races had been run. This was news to the HKJC.

These things happen and one puts them down to the unexpected and making way for things with greater priorities than horse racing or anything else taking place in Australia’s three racing codes.

Having said this, the coverage of Hong Kong racing on Sky has always been rickety at best. It comes across as more of an afterthought than a partnership and has plodded along this path like a three penny opera on a nickel and dime budget for too long.

This was always on the cards considering the frosty relationship  between the person who Matt Stewart calls “the emperor” of Racing New South Wales, and the CEO of the Hong Kong jockey Club.

The quality of the coverage of the Hong Kong racing on Sky was something that wasn’t exactly difficult to see every time I visited Melbourne. It was crap.

Still, and sidestepping the creaky racing.com platform, the HKJC is hardly going to lose sleep over this slight irritant. It has bigger halibut to fry and new plans to be unveiled.

Where “the emperor” starts to become Captain Puff’N Pop is when horse racing in Australia starts to look like a Popeye The Sailor Man cartoon with the Captain acting like Bluto.

More and more pop-up races from Racing New South Wales keep coming onstream, and let’s not kid ourselves that these are to increase the existing customer base and attract those “younger people”. Please.

Book some B Lister in music, have them perform after the races and those “younger people” will show up for that one racing meeting.

It’s not exactly what made the Happy Wednesday brand at Happy Valley Racecourse a weekly event for that elusive younger demographic before the world went into lockdown mode. 

We’re finally breaking free of these barriers and the Happy Wednesday brand will evolve like Django unchained into whatever is relevant in the new abnormally normal.

Sydney’s Pop-up races meanwhile continue to pop up and as always are all about money and more money- money through owners and syndicates and middle men selling slots to slot holders with the spending power and increasing prize money more and more and more often.

It’s all about the money though wanting these races given black type status according to the rules of the Pattern Committee. It’s wanting one’s cake and to eat it too with every man and dog in it for themselves and everything driven by the Greed Factor.

As Gordon Gekko said all those years ago, Greed Is Good.

Of course, money makes the world go round though these days some are wondering what there’s to do to actually enjoy more and more money.

Still, these pop-up races are very tempting carrots  to dangle and there’ll be many who, believing they have the right product, bamboozled by dollar signs.

How many and for who and for how much longer can trotting out these types of races go on? Debatable. But, for the time being, it’s working and has made Captain Puff’N Pop look like a visionary. He likes that.

His chorus of cheerleaders have made doubly sure of that while the enemy in the South have given him a free pass to ride roughshod over them by seeming to enjoy a permanent siesta. There’s not much get up and go South of the border down Mexico way unless of course it’s already got up and gone.

As for these pop-up races, it’s where the tail is wagging the dog- meaning the gimmick has taken over from the horse racing- especially the emotional attachment to horse racing and quality control that cannot be maintained?

Then again, does Captain Puff’N Pop even care? He’s part and parcel of one of those Carry On movies. He’ll carry on regardless.

Where do those “younger people” fit in? Wasn’t this, once upon a sound byte, the objective behind the Everest? Or were the goalposts quietly moved in all the word play? It doesn’t matter.

The Everest has been a huge marketing coup for racing in Australia and it’s given Captain Puff’N Pop extra snap, crackle and hype. But with everything else he’s trying to juggle these days on that wobbly plate, like the NRL, there’s always the danger of things falling through the cracks or new riders in the storm appearing while the Doors play on.

Anyone who always leads through fear and intimidation eventually falls on their own sword. There’s always a Judas or a Brutus or a Keyser Soze amongst the enablers and minions who can see the cracks appearing- and have their own plans to win the game of thrones.

It’s been a very long wait for someone to take on Captain Puff’N Pop, but in these most unusual of times, what’s come through loud and clear is to expect the unexpected.

Captain Puff’N Pop has had a free ride through the Australian horse racing landscape for well over a decade because he huffs and puffs the loudest. He seems to enjoy being disruptive and creating confusion as out of chaos comes opportunities.

When all else fails, out come the threats of legal action and the backing of a malleable racing media. Captain Puff’N Pop is the meal ticket to many. And with none of his minions getting any younger and with bills to pay, it’s about hanging in there and not making waves despite knowing that those icebergs ahead are not going to melt.

Captain Puff’N Pop has got so used to getting his own way that he cannot help being Oliver Twisted, putting another prawnie on the barbie and inhaling more and more power. It’s like enjoying the smell of napalm in the morning.

Though he keeps repeating the same sound bytes wrapped in slightly altered versions of Joseph’s Technicoloured Dream Jacket, it’s all become a worn out mantra. It’s showbiz. It’s not unlike nodding off, chanting Om and just allowing the bullshit to fly above you without being hit by the pigeon droppings.

Where the good Captain might be stepping on some land mines is trying to change the entire horse racing landscape and replace tradition and quality with fast food racing. It could be his Achilles heel with some serious repercussions outside of Australia.

There’s something else.

Before anyone can blink, technology and very new ways in which online platforms are used by those with zero knowledge of horse racing could be walking in and calling the shots.

How? Why? Because they can. They can by working independently and because online laws still remain guesswork and with plenty of bluffing. It’s like a sting operation.

The entertainment industry, especially the music industry, discovered this the hard way when the illegal file sharing site Napster first surfaced.

There could have been co-operation. But, no, the music companies sued, won the battle and lost the war and are still trying to play catch-up by streaming upstream and with corporate communications kept busy trying to keep the dream alive.

Only a fool would think this couldn’t happen to the much smaller racing industry- an industry often without the young creative tekkies with incredible skills in the digital world and already ahead of even the NFT curve.

#horseracing #deliveryplatforms #popupraces #theemperor #technology #captainpuffnpop #powerplay