top of page

HORSE RACING AND THE GUARDING OF THE CHANGE (Or something like that)




There’s something reminiscent of the old West just before the steam engines started going through towns when thinking about the horse racing landscape in Australia these days.




Everything is changing, but there’s the feeling that no one has any idea what anything will eventually look like- including the all-important wagering and media landscapes with the latter somewhat foolishly ignored and allowed to just carry on with whatever on the same old online platforms. Here’s something to wrap one’s head around: Because of constantly having to upgrade this and that for “better mobility”, many current browsers on certain smartphones don’t work. This means that many links cannot be opened. Having dinner last week with key executives from one of the biggest tech companies in the world, this subject came up which basically renders articles like this bloody useless.


Also mentioned was how there’s been a huge drop visitors to online platforms and online advertising revenue- but a surge in the gaming industry. Moving right along... These days when meeting those in horse racing who’ve been part it for usually many decades and with a tale to spin, there the usual reminiscing about everything and everyone from the days of future passed. What’s almost always missing is even the kernel of an idea as to what’s next.


Everything seems to be built around wishful thinking and some second guessing before returning to what are today pretty old dollops of everything including more words about those pop-up races copied from Frank Stronach’s idea in 2016 called The Pegasus in the US.

These races are happy to continue with the “more prize money” mantra added and chanted by cheerleaders and not much else going for it.


What’s in it for the customer? Guess it’s something else to bet on and some fleeting moments of excitement.



For someone who’s scored some solid home runs in consumer marketing including launching McDonald’s in Asia, STARTV, the first satellite television station that was eventually neatly packaged and sold to News Corp, and creating the good old Happy Wednesday brand, it’s quite baffling that horse racing hasn’t already hitched itself to the runaway hit that’s Barbie starring Australian actress Margot Robbie.


Perhaps this was too perfunctorily obvious?


Perhaps there were concerns about the dress code?




What’s obvious is that racing’s old gunslingers have had their day and are about to hang up their guns as sagebrush blows across the tundra of Australia’s Tombstone Territory.


Young guns with talent and high hopes ride into town while in the background something by Ennio Morricone plays and Bob Dylan is singing “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”.



Amongst all this, those varmints who’ve always been part of horse racing shuffle around wondering what’s next, and maybe where to find some shelter from the storm while playing for time.


In a starring role at the moment as jockeys in whatever is coming up next in Australia are Dylan Gibbons and Jimmy (“Name Dropper”) Orman, below, both needing one really big Group 1 win to finally catapult them to where they belong.





Jockeys like J-Mac and the blazing saddles of a revitalised and brilliant Blake Shinn after escaping from Hong Kong’s racing bubble, and Damian Lane, who’s young, gifted and focused with enough “majine” to do everything possible to eventually take over from Christophe Lemaire in Japan, are well aware of the current competition from a posse of hungry young pretenders to their thrones- Zac Lloyd, Tyler Schiller, Reese Jones, Matthew Cartwright, Celine Goudray, below, Laura Lafferty, Wiremu Pinn and others.




Damian Lane and his career path is by far the most interesting to follow.


He’s improved in every aspect of the game, and at 29, he’s low-key, supremely talented, humble, globally marketable and said to be learning to read, write and speak fluent Japanese.


These are everything needed for him to be given a full-time licence to ride in the land of the rising sun with its extraordinary breeding industry and where he already has a strong fan following, support system and first dibs on some of the best equine talent in the world.



Away from the jockey ranks, there are also the changes in the Australian training ranks with new teams being formed almost overnight.


Following on from the game changing Waterhouse-Bott Happy Meal combo that came into being decades ago, there’s now Peter Moody and Katherine Coleman, Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr whereas the three Hayes Brothers, below, are looking at life and careers on the bright side of the street without big daddy.



On the first day of the Australian Spring Carnival last Saturday, other than the winners, there were some exciting young gallopers having their first runs and waiting in the wings for their Big Days Out.


Whatever happens or doesn’t happen to racing in Australia, there’s its breeding industry. This will always be seen by any government as racing’s financial rescue plan though even this will need to be tweaked.


Meanwhile, the ageing grassroots Hong Kong Chinese racing fans are hoping that apprentices Nicola Yuen and Britney Wong, currently honing their riding skills in Adelaide, won’t end up being track riders in the city like Scarlet So.


It doesn’t really make much sense for these girls to spend years away from where they were born to return as apprentice jockeys- but only to ride track work for stables.


What’s very very much needed in this day and age in a city that’s trying to find its mojo is for a bona fide Hong Kong Chinese racing hero- and a mainstream media to get behind whoever this might be.


Hong Kong has a growing number of sporting heroes led by world champion Eurasian swimmer Siobhan Haughey.


This girl really is marketable, she’s a role model and she’s going places.




Will there ever be a Hong Kong born racing hero?



Some ask why the HKJC didn’t start looking at young riding talent- male and female- from nearby Mongolia decades ago.


Maybe they did- and if so, by now, this talent should be ready to make that transition from being brilliant horsemen to becoming good race riders.



Think actress Julia Roberts, who was part of an award winning documentary some years ago on these Mongolian riders wouldn’t endorse this initiative?




Other than screwing down the locks during those lockdown years and creating a stifling racing bubble, one doubts that the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s senior executives were chilling out during those days of gloom and doom designing surgical masks.


No one expected Covid to strike and stunt the growth of the world and curtail all good vibes, and contingency plans must have been drawn up for whenever the world- racing and otherwise- got back to some form of normalcy.




Other than screwing down the locks during those lockdown years and creating a stifling racing bubble, one doubts that the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s senior executives were chilling out during those days of gloom and doom designing surgical masks.

No one expected Covid to strike and stunt the growth of the world and curtail all good vibes, and contingency plans must have been drawn up for whenever the world- racing and otherwise- got back to some form of normalcy.



Still, there’s something not quite hunky nor funky dory about Hong Kong, the city, and its racing these days.


What’s mentioned these days include a dwindling horse population, risk averse owners suddenly doing the math in a yo-yo economy, numbers not adding up to show a return on their investments plus a new generation uninterested in being involved in a pastime built around gambling.


As for those still following racing, no matter how loyal they might be to it, they want something more than the monotony of reruns starring the same old cast that’s now older.




Frankly, who knows anything about what’s next for Hong Kong other than everything in the city appearing to be ageing right before our eyes.


Last week the front page of the SCMP screamed out this headline...


Unlike the colonial days, where almost everyone was happy to just let things happen, these are being reined in today.


As for the upcoming horse racing season, apart perhaps for more simulcasts, this time from places like the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and maybe the final race meeting from Macau, one really doesn’t see changes of any real significance taking place.




It promises to be more of the same old thing- but older- and questions becoming more and more pointed and the subject matter needing a smart and relevant communications strategy.


Again, it comes down to horse racing needing good and strategic communication skills- globally.


It’s something it doesn’t have right now, because of too many tin horns involved and leaders having refused to see the forest for the trees and read the tea leaves.




31 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page