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As “Hong Kong China” changes will “Hong Kong China” horse racing follow suit?

Updated: Jan 3

These days it’s like being Chauncey Gardener when it comes to Hong Kong racing, where I like to just watch what unfolds- watch something that often reminds me of a “Seinfeld” episode. 

Unless there are some humongous jackpots to be won, and always interested in watching Zac Purton’s horsemanship, there’s nothing much to draw one into something that’s basically the same old same old but looking older and older with some naff ‘live’ music and all-singing and dancing Canto pop-stars thrown in for, well, one guesses, to “enhance the customer experience”.

Meanwhile, the practice of “marquee value” jockeys allowed to fly into the city to grab some fresh new lucre continues. 


This is something that more and more people in the city believe should be reined in, especially when so many Hong Kong Belongers in what is today a “budget” city are finding life and living here unaffordable. 

Are these “international names”, often riding horses in the lower grades, especially at Happy Valley, really a sustainable enough draw card to what has rather quickly dissipated into a pastime mostly for Hong Kong’s “racing uncles” and budget tour groups from China who have come to see something they are happy to be clueless about?

As for what’s still known as the Hong Kong Jockey Club, could there be some organisational changes afoot and perhaps different branding strategies for a changing marketplace?


Before this happens or doesn’t, could there perhaps be a stronger communications strategy employed to promote the Club’s Charities Trust that does much for the community though many, even after all these decades, are still not sure what 

these low hanging fruits actually are- and don’t seem to care?


One has to wonder about all these things when thinking back to HKIR week in December, and where during the ‘live’ broadcast of the races to the international racing world, the city was constantly referred to as “Hong Kong, China”.


Was this a sign of more potent changes to come?


Will new goalposts be moved whereas some wonder what’s happening to the much ballyhooed launch of something or another called The Institute Of Philanthropy?


From a racing perspective, and excluding The Purton Experience, if there’s one thing that’s at least interesting enough for me to follow is seeing talented Hong Kong born jockey Jerry Chau, below, back from the wilderness and making the most of the new opportunities he’s been given. 

After being the last minute replacement for apprentice Gary Lo in a dramatic reversal of fortunes and when immediately indentured to Douglas Whyte and becoming the winningest apprentice since Matthew Chadwick, the successful bromance came to a screeching halt and Jerry Chau’s career came apart at the seams.


Ironically, and maybe through synchronicity, like Luke Currie, below, who only very recently returned to Australia and has quickly made up for lost time in Hong Kong by riding winner after winner, Jerry Chau has also suddenly been amongst the winners with support mainly from Benno TP Yung and the powerful stable of Danny CS Shum. 

Meanwhile, those riders who look like being part of the future of racing, whether in Hong Kong or not are led by champion South African jockey Lyle Hewitson, who, with his strong academic background, seems destined for much greater things wherever he might go next.


Below, in one of the more weird photos taken last month, trainer David Hayes is seen seemingly admiring the jockey’s trending hairstyle by using X-ray vision to see what lies beneath the bonnet, so to speak.

There’s then the very good and very young Luke Ferraris doing extremely well as is relative new boy to Hong Kong racing and also from South Africa in Keagan De Melo.


Moving right along and without more about the impending arrival of David Eustace and the quite incredible success story that is Pierre Ng, not to be ignored should be Mark Newnham, who, with the few runners he’s entered to date, is enjoying some good winning percentages.

Meanwhile, the question quite a few who follow these things are asking is when one of the three Hayes brothers- JD Hayes- will be in Hong Kong to work alongside Big Daddy?

JD has the extra asset of having communications skills on his side by being able to speak fluent Cantonese and is said to be busy learning Mandarin- always something good to have in the CV, especially these days in “Hong Kong China”.


In the meantime, as someone- someone who falls into the ethnic minority category and has been in this city for almost a lifetime, there’s the feeling that we’re seeing the end of a Hong Kong one remembers fondly.

This was a Hong Kong when the most exciting international city in the world with extremely colourful and talented people- and not rejects from The Peter Principle- who talked the talk and were also able to walk the walk without the need to blow foo foo air kisses from across the room.

The vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit of Hong Kong is what made everything in the city, including horse racing, tick, tock and rattle and hum instead of looking lost, confused, seemingly clutching at straws and being rather cheap and tacky.

As has been said many times, and by far more learned people about the truisms attached to politics and the scale of economics, looking at even 2-3 year plans for the future of Hong Kong could be a waste of time when there’s a constant changing of the guard taking place and with no one knowing where things might land.


Is the present and future of “Hong Kong China” horse racing immune to all this? 

A Happy Valley Wonderland? Why not?

Think about this: Even Superman was crippled by kryptonite.

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