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HONG KONG, HORSE RACING AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS


Someone who lives and breathes Hong Kong racing just as he has for the past forty something years was having dinner with us and reminiscing about “the good old days”.


Were we? Really?


This is something done whenever longtime Hong Kong Belongers get together as, well, there’s really not much happening in Hong Kong these days, and very possibly anywhere else.


It’s a bit like The Day The Earth Stood Still or a Barbra Streisand song and where all we’re left with are memories.




This is possibly why the government has deleted its dumbed down singing and dancing “Hello Hong Kong” campaign and is trying to create a “Happy Hong Kong” dim sum basket of fun for what is an ageing population .




As for our dinner get together, it was, well, nice although listening to someone tick off names no longer with us and mentioning those weekend trips to Macau that often turned into summer holidays and where marriages hit a few icebergs quickly became deafeningly boring.


Always pulled out at these “Happy Racing” get-togethers is the laundry list of names that includes everything and everyone from champion gallopers Co-Tack, Quicken Away, Silver Lining, Good Ba Ba, jockeys like Philip Robinson, Danny Brereton, Nigel Tiley, and Darryl Holland to quite mysterious characters linked to Hong Kong racing like 38 year old New Zealand “financier” Mike Bastion, who for some unknown reason, decided to dive bomb off the sixth floor balcony of his luxury apartment in Estoril Court.





There was also the former polo player who represented England in the Olympics, lived in Hong Kong for a few years with a clairvoyant, bought his way into becoming friends with many in horse racing before being nabbed trying to smuggle the largest haul of the drug known as ice into Sydney inside wine bottles imported from the city.


There’s an extremely interesting story hidden here...




In between these conversations are not so vague recollections of excursions into the bowels of opulence at six star escort clubs, mainly in Tsim Sha Tsui, and those long days journey into the night that started at the Tiffin Lounge of the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong and somehow snaked their way through the rest of the hotel.


It was The World’s Longest Cocktail Party and for those of us who were privy enough to be part of the trip and survived it, there’s really nothing around today to get excited about.


Some of us did it all- and more- and are largely unimpressed with most things on offer at life’s buffet table today.


This is the malaise hanging over Hong Kong and which, of course, permeates itself into every facet of life in the city including horse racing.


Listening to sixty and seventy year olds mention jockeys as being “young guns” and how they have time to become the next Zac or John Size is pleasant enough conversation though ultimately of absolutely no consequence.


There are voices going off in one’s head screaming, “Who cares?”




It’s like those post mortems after a race day in what is 2023.


Does anyone really care what Hong Kong’s “racing KOLs” are saying about anything?


It’s all as numbingly boring as listening to those who get a hard on talking about turnover figures where the numbers don’t add up, or kinda half watching some cowboys races from Nakayama and aimlessly pressing that “Like” button because this is what many of us have become- push button slaves to technology and believing in pretty much everything that’s out there.




Me, I write because I am an observer of life and people.


Being honest with myself comes out in the words to my poetry which become songs and maybe short movies.


It’s cheaper than therapy and it’s my way of communicating with whoever is out there and interested enough to listen.


Personally, I trust very very few and have seen and been with too many in that once real world to accept substitutes and indulge in silly psychological games.


As for a “Happy Hong Kong” in 2023, I really don’t see it.


Strange as it might sound to those in other countries, if horse racing in this city could somehow rise above what it has been allowed to become, there might be a chance for Hong Kong.


Horse racing and Hong Kong have always been so closely intertwined that it’s become one without many who should know even realising it.


Horse racing has nothing to really do with gambling per se.


It’s everything to do with having something that keeps one busy and the mind occupied by something that’s often goofy with goofball characters and somehow weirdly important in its unimportance.


Once in a while, however, it can kickstart new thinking.


Hong Kong horse racing could really do with a sense of humour, less arrogance and more empathy.


Like the city that is its home, those running things have been taking themselves way too seriously for much too long- and the cracks are showing.


These old school leaders don’t seem to understand that there’s been a radical changing of the guard, everything has changed forever almost overnight, old rules are dead and there’s a soundtrack that has “Another Brick In The Wall” playing on Repeat.




As the song says, “Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!”


Fast forward to today and it’s about not treating us like kids as we’ve seen life from both sides now.


School’s been out for quite a while, folks, and as Dylan warned, “Don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters”.




As it was then, and it is now, we’re all running outta time.


In the time left, surely, it’s about doing something meaningful and new as opposed to continuing being part of the Twitteratti or paying to be Instagram influencers?


Continuing to try and make amends has become tiring and predictable as you know you’ll never get past that ninth step, and even if you do, then what?



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