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Updated: Jan 23

It’s been proven time and time again just how difficult, nigh impossible, it is for those who follow horse racing religiously overseas to understand certain misconceptions about this money game when it comes to Hong Kong-misconceptions like “racing fans” in the city- meaning the Chinese- being “racing mad gamblers”. 


Perhaps once upon a time, they were, but the world and Hong Kong and horse racing have all changed. 


Those racing fans from back in the day are now 30-40 years older, they’re retirees and far from being millionaires. 


With not much of anything to sustain their interests, the average local punter might turn up, especially to the night racing at Happy Valley along with their trusty horse racing guides and fried chicken wings and bet around HK200-300 for the night.


It’s not exactly a “happy” Wednesday, no matter how many times someone onstage at the Beer Garden murders “Happy” by Pharrell Williams believing that this is what the CEO of the HKJC still wishes to hear.


The Hong Kong Jockey Club is hardly Tommy- the deaf, dumb and blind kid who played a mean pinball- but is it showing much in the way of long term smarts, because, well, their cash cow has been well and truly milked and are golden parachutes being hastily strapped on?

The HKJC is well aware that the dynamics of their business model have completely changed and it’s now all about patriotism and culture and a gambling driven product like horse racing needing to give more and more back to the community.


Though some in the HKJC hierarchy might be dyed in the wool racing people, they’re hopefully not blinkered and overpaid business nincompoops. 


They must realise that horse racing today is seen as a “sunset industry”. Gawd knows this term has become a mantra in Hong Kong.


It’s been recognised for at least the past few years as something for an aging population in a down economy. 


The front page of today’s SCMP screamed “Hong Kong Stocks Fall To Lowest In 15 Months”. 


Think this isn’t already impacting the days of future passed of horse racing?


As for those “younger people” who fall into the 24-38 demographic, they are spoiled for choice and have moved on to focus on far greater priorities in life. 


They’re searching for that elusive butterfly of happiness.


There’s also the mood and concerns of the Hong Kong and China governments to think about, especially with the impending closures of horse racing in neighbouring Singapore and Macau and rumours of an ill wind blowing through horse racing in Mauritius, Malaysia- a Muslim country, by the way- and South Korea. 

It’s also telling that the Macau government has made it clear about wanting the image of the former Portuguese enclave to be seen as being an entertainment driven tourist destination and not all about its casino business. 


As for those “plundering” international jockeys flying in and out of Hong Kong for more “loot”, and apparently being given various concessions, if true, this is something that requires restraint- and “protectionism”, something that Japanese racing does extremely well. 


Don’t ever forget the importance of home grown talent and don’t take good old fashioned loyalty for granted.


Especially in the past couple of years, there are those who have regularly questioned Hong Kong being used for rich pickings by “international flying squads” in a very much divided city where the wealth gap between the very rich and the very poor needs to be healed before things boil over. 


Hong Kong cannot afford anything boiling over again- not even Chicken Congee.


In the past couple of years, various questions have also been asked regarding taxation issues surrounding horse racing and the final destination for this Hong Kong made “loot”.


Sure, those old local horse racing fans want to see “world class racing”- but just so long as they’re not paying for it, and where Hong Kong doesn’t end up being short changed.


What was interesting to hear on Sunday at Shatin was latest Hong Kong racing made rich boy James McDonald tap dancing around possible future plans for Voyage Bubble after the pair had taken out The Stewards Cup.


Maybe Bubble Trouble was being reined in as one saw the Hype Machine in rather untimely overdrive.

No one is blaming anyone for being paid handsomely for what they bring to the game. 


But do they?


Hopefully, there really is a very good return on investment and time though one wonders about the sustainability in continuing with this business strategy…


Could it be seen by some as the HKJC officialdom playing favourites and acting like star struck old ninnies?


As for young James’ comments after the races following him being prodded by race caller and presenter Tom Wood about way too premature future plans for the galloper, if If we didn’t know any better, we’d think that he was reading from a carefully worded corporate script that said much by saying nothing.


Bottom line: As with anything in life, when the going is good, everyone and everything looks great. 


The challenge is in the ability to rise to the occasion and turn things around.


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