by Hans Ebert

While absorbing the Zac Attack’s proclamation this week of almost biblical proportions that “the tide has turned”- a reference to having turned water into wine to take on the Brazilian Magic Man with him now being the regular rider of David Hayes’ Naboo Attack and Nervous Witness, both very possibly Group 1 winners- one couldn’t help thinking about how very quickly things can change.

For those who know something about the “Witness” labelled horses that have been racing in Hong Kong for decades, many were taken aback to see the familiar green and black colours of Nervous Witness and always associated with the Tony Cruz stable now in the care of David Hayes. This wasn’t exactly going along according to the script.

After all, it was the very long and successful partnership between Price Bloodstock, Tony Cruz plus larger-than-life owner Archie Da Silva that had given Hong Kong the great Silent Witness- and when the first time we had seen these now familiar colours.

Silent Witness was the horse for whom yours truly even wrote and recorded something of an anthem during the SARS crisis.

I was running EMI Music in the region at the time, and made the pitch directly to Archie and Tony at the Champagne Bar after running into the usual approval roadblocks at the HKJC. The track did better than expected by selling something like 7000 DVDs. Remember them? DVDs? Times change.

Over the years, every “Witness” galloper in Hong Kong has been part of this same team. Some of us were even waiting for the day when “Witness For The Prosecution” might have made his debut.

While it appears that someone stepped on a land mine and detonated this Price Is Right relationship, the big benefactor and winner is David Hayes- and Hong Kong racing.

With Golden Sixty still hanging in there, now the two new duelling banjos of David Hayes plus a couple of other young gallopers with very good potential waiting in the wings- Courier Wonder, also from Price Bloodstock, Master Eight, Killer Bee, Drops Of God, Blaze Warrior and Fantastic Treasure- Hong Kong horsepower finally has quite a cavalcade of stars.

Gargantuan turnover numbers being regularly trotted out is one thing. Hong Kong having the most successful racing jurisdiction in the world is something else. More importantly, this city’s equine ranks have never looked as lethal and impressive. It brings much needed pride of “ownership” to Hong Kong racing fans for their incredible loyalty. Not everyone can afford to be a Siu, Hui or Kwok. Or even Natalis Chan and his motley crew.

As for Nervous Witness, to some, the galloper even shows all the potential to be Hong Kong’s answer to Australia’s Nature Strip and, just maybe, Zaaki.

It’s a big call, yes, and one waits with a raincoat for many in Oz to throw cold water all over that thinking. Still…

Taking a different tact when looking at Hong Kong racing other than the old and the obvious, the return of David Hayes last year and his booming start to the new racing season is certainly going to have the wok being stirred more furiously than ever by many of the other trainers.

Hayes has quickly raised the stakes and some are wondering if the kitchen has finally got too hot for them. This time couldn’t have come any sooner.

Simply put, there are trainers who are just making up the numbers. They’ve been the Woking dead for years.

Meanwhile, like Hot Chocolate once sang, no one loves a winner, baby, more than Hong Kong’s crazy rich owners. Now that the tide has changed, many will be hoping to switch camps and be part of Camp Haysey. Loyalty? What loyalty? In horse racing? Please.

Keeping with the biblical theme, there won’t be enough room in the Hayes inn for everyone.

Where these owners will go- and the lengths they will be prepared to go and pay for the “face” to own a galloper good enough to compete with the best of David Hayes will be interesting and fun to watch.

For us little people in the peanut gallery with no vested interest in any of the above other than a fun pastime twice a week to make some tea money, it’s hoping that this new horse opera can somehow enhance the image of a once vibrant city that’s lost its mojo.

As for the lifestyles and career moves and proclamations of superstar jockeys like Zac Purton and Joao Moreira, this is their business. It’s them looking after numero uno. They’ve worked damn hard to get here and know their worth.

For someone who enjoys following the ins and outs and ebbs and flows of Hong Kong horse racing, what’s obvious is that these two jockeys can’t ride all the “best” horses nor all the winners.

Somewhere along the way, they’ll have to make choices and not all will be the right ones.

This was proven on Sunday when Karis Teetan, Derek Leung, Jerry Chau and Ruan Maia rode seven of the ten winners on the card.

There are going to be more opportunities for almost everyone- almost- and where effective communications and networking skills will come into play. It’s going to separate the wheat from the chaff.

That playing field is going to look different even with today’s travel restrictions.

At the first Happy Valley meeting tonight, the Hayes runners are again to the fore and will be ridden by different jockeys. The big man enjoys mixing it up.

It’s an interesting enough card and makes for a chilled night of horse racing.

It’s also about a Hong Kong Belonger like myself taking in the eight races and continuing to look at this city and wondering what the future holds.

It always comes down to individual needs and different sets of priorities.

Know what I mean?

#HKracing #DavidHayes #ZacPurton #JoaoMoreira #PriceBloodstock #NervousWitness #SilentWitness #NabooStar #face

featured photo credit: Kenneth Chan