For someone who’s always been on the outside looking in and only flirting with this pastime known as horse racing, I’ve always listened to what that invisible person inside of me is telling me and have heeded the warnings. And there have been many.
Any business anywhere in the world takes its lead from the city where it’s located and “Happy Hong Kong” today, very possibly like every city in the world, is going through a post pandemic malaise.
Today’s Hong Kong is uncomfortably numb, and like the Pink Floyd track almost of the same name, this has affected what still remains the city’s most popular pastime.
Why is it so popular? Sometimes- and this “sometimes” is becoming something that’s actually often- bad news travels fast, and those who see themselves as “Hong Kong racing fans” have a certain fascination in seeing things go off the rails.
These are people who absolutely love love love wallowing and drowning in gossip.
For the past 3-4 years, much has gone off the rails, and there’s now the case of The Brazilian Bros where both have pleaded guilty to the charges laid against them and have almost one year to have siestas and think things through.
The racing writers will report on all this, but as even a blind man can see that this is not a good ‘look’ for the image of horse racing.
It’s especially not good for the image so soon after four horses had to be euthanised before the running of the Kentucky Derby, and the news this week of disgraced trainer and “knockabout bloke” Darren “The Jigger” Weir seen working with horses again.
In Hong Kong, amongst other problems to do with the lack of a “vibe” in the city, certain horse owners who are in my social circle have done the maths, had sudden Eureka moments, and not seeing a return on their investment, are making severe cutbacks to their business portfolios.
Rightly or wrongly, some believe that they are financing the whole racing show shebang while elsewhere, there are serious rumblings that the money spent on attracting “superstar” jockeys to Hong Kong and encouraging gambling could be used far better to help the less privileged in the community.
To keep it brief, horse racing has image problems, and Hong Kong racing, like many other things in the city, is, at least to me, looking old and pretty much like its race has already been run.
It’s desperately in need of a revival kit marked “THIS IS 2023”.
As for banking on “younger people” coming on board the racing game? Please. They want nothing to do with it.
Looking at other racing jurisdictions and this current infatuation for “pop up” races with the obligatory “slots”, and when everything else fails raising prize money, how sustainable is this business strategy in what is a down economy?
Is it just more smoke and mirrors blown up derrières and not dissimilar to those in music who believe that streams on Spotify, “likes” on Facebook and the number of followers on Instagram are going to create financially viable careers?
Jesus also had followers and he still got nailed.
Not that it’s going to save the world, but what’s caught my interest quite by chance is the world of equestrian sports.
Here’s something that’s graceful and is also
about the love of and respect for the horse- without the need for gentle “persuaders”.
It’s where horse and rider form a team and is something that’s accepted by a mainstream audience.
Having celebrities involved in the sport helps to make it likeable.
Equestrian events are already part of the Olympics.
It has enormous sponsorship appeal for premium brands as it appeals to those who wish to be associated with style and taste- and, more often than not, those who are already part of this exclusive blue bloods club.
Could this be another example of the changing of the guard?
Time will tell, but here’s someone who believes that we might be seeing a few high-powered names associated with horse racing expanding their portfolios to include equestrian events and which could accommodate future and career plans.
Here’s also a sporting event that brings with it a form of entertainment not far removed from Cirque du Soleil and the spectacular horse show that is Cavalia.
With China very much involved in being a key driver in the future of equestrian events, Chinese born Alex Hua Tian, below, is seen as the perfect ambassador for the sport for the country.
Another thing: Surely, the very ambitious plans for equestrian events in China will mean the Hong Kong Jockey Club being invited to be part of the evolution of the sport?
Didn’t this already happen in China last week?
What will all this mean?
Think about it.