Horse racing is a funny game- always has been, always will be. It’s often quite Campton Races do-dah do dah.
In Hong Kong, where much has to do with that often inexplicable thing called “face” and the importance placed on fung shui, this game is often incorrectly full of incidents to fit what is a “preordained” narrative.
This is to make deadlines and is not exactly the gonzo journalism of, let’s say, Dr Hunter S Thompson at the Kentucky Derby.
Last Sunday at Shatin, where it was SaSa Ladies Purse Day- SaSa being a highly successful cosmetics brand and the rags to riches story of Simon and Eleanor Kwok- Mrs SaSa looked to be wearing a white pre-Christmas cake on her head for the occasion.
Well, technically speaking, this was her Big Day Out, and she could do whatever she damned well pleased.
Making the scene was the latest SaSa ambassador who’s the present Miss Hong Kong and a few other head turners with cake hats and what appeared to be flour makeup on their faces.
It wasn’t some trending new makeup. It actually was the glare from the transparent masks they had to wear for social distancing reasons. But when an event is sponsored by a cosmetics company, who’s to know? I thought the ladies had accidentally leaned up against a wall.
With Paul O’Sullivan training his first winner of the season and now able to take a taxi without shame and drivers taking le pissoir outta him, everything was set for one of the highlights of the racing calendar.
There was much gusto put into some extremely tight and competitive finishes as the racing got under way.
Alexis Badel rode a treble including taking out the SaSa Ladies Purse on Tourbillon Diamond. Race favourite Glorious Dragon was locked up with nowhere to go. There was just the hint that things were unraveling.
Those investing in the exotic bet type called the Six Up- picking the winners of the last six races on the card- expected it to be a Four Up. Many could not see Nervous Witness in race seven or Blaze Warrior in the last being beaten. The David Hayes trained Nervous Witness went off at $1.10. It came a distant third.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the champion trainer put this loss to a “gut busting” last run though admitting that he was in “a state of shock”.
Regular rider Zac Purton apparently mentioned that the galloper felt “lethargic” behind the barriers. The Influencer took a different route to the unsaddling enclosure. He knows how restless the local natives can get.
The race was won by Cordyceps Six, trained by Richard Gibson and ridden by Jerry Chau, the talented apprentice rider who only recently graduated to the senior riding ranks. This win is going to be a watershed moment in the young man’s career.
As for $2.2 favourite Blaze Warrior in race ten, who was having his first start of this season for John Size and ridden by Joao Moreira, he had to settle for a somewhat tired looking second to Ima Single Man, trained by Tony Cruz and ridden by crowd favourite and the always positive Mauritian bubble boy that is Karis Teetan.
This is where “face” and fung shui came into play.
Tony Cruz, the legendary former champion jockey and now trainer, had been the man who took owner Archie Da Silva’s brilliant Silent Witness to those lofty heights, especially during the time when Hong Kong was trying to function under the cloud of the SARS crisis. Silent Witness gave this city something to cheer about.
Tony Cruz had also trained every single galloper that carried that Witness name. But not this new one.
Like Silent Witness, the horse was sold to connections by the very astute and successful bloodstock agents that is Price Bloodstock.
For reasons too complicated to get into here, this decades long partnership came to a screeching halt when, somewhat surprisingly, to those familiar with the players involved, Nervous Witness was given to the Hayes yard.
After the gelding’s first couple of wins- scintillating wins- it looked like Hong Kong racing had a real global superstar on its hands and the stock of David Hayes rose even higher.
Then came Sunday Bloody Sunday. How and when and if the pieces will be picked up is up in the air. There’s no such thing as a certainty, certainly not in horse racing.
This is why premature hype is a dangerous thing. Remember, Pakistan Friend? Remember Milli Vanilli, Vanilla Ice and Right Said Fred and...?
One couldn’t help but wonder what Tony Cruz might have been thinking after watching the loss of Nervous Witness- and then taking out the last race of the day.
Talk to me, man.
Another record turnover aside, what can one take away from the 2021 SaSa Ladies Purse Day other than lotsa cake and Hello Kitty “ho cuuue-ah” poses?
It was nice for some and not so nice for others.
At least, it wasn’t anything like the ins and outs and sideways that went on at Del Mar and eventually went the the way of the appropriately named Modern Games.
On Saturday morning, Hong Kong time, the Charlie Appleby runner won the Juvenile Breeders Turf with William Buick on his back. Everyone was paid out in full...except for those who backed the horse. They were gelded.
It was another giant balls up for the racing game in America. The chumps in charge were again looking like the Keystone Cops on crack.
That colourful term, “Let them eat cake” came to mind along with the strains of “MacArthur Park” and its references to “leaving the cake out in the rain” and “the sweet green icing running down.”
This is where we came in...