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THE CHANGING FACE OF HONG KONG RACING IN HONG KONG, CHINA.



It’s quite surprising and amusing to listen to those who should know better be in almost shock and awe about horse racing in Hong Kong becoming less and less “western” and more and more Chinese.


Listening to some, one could be mistaken into thinking that these people are lamenting about something like a passage to India, the last days of the Raj and have completely ignored reading the tea leaves. 


They didn’t see any of these changes steaming towards them since around, well, The Handover in 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China by the British and ending colonial rule?



The fact is that now in 2023, Hong Kong has changed forever, and listening to the former British colony being constantly referred to as “Hong Kong, China” during the ‘live’ broadcast of the recent International Races held at Shatin was a very small, but significant change in the “branding” and “product placement” of the city.


Everyone in business in “Hong Kong, China” are currently tripping over themselves to “make nice” with the motherland and curry various political and business favours. 


Some of the quotes we’ve read about future plans for businesses in China and dates etc simply don’t add up. It’s all rather cockeyed optimism mixed with dollops of Far Side foo foo.


Leaving behind the success of the recent HKIR Week and the fawning and sucking sounds about the two days of international racing by people like “Hoss” and others in the overseas racing media, very telling to those who live in Hong Kong was, once again, the non-appearance at these races by the Chief Executive of the city, and with this important day in the racing calendar taking place on the same day as the rather more important District Board Elections. 


Yes, for Hong Kong racing fans, it was great to see the wins of the three Hong Kong horses- especially the history making win of Golden Sixty for Team G60. 


What did any of this mean to those outside of the racing bubble? 


Did it make the front pages of the newspapers? 




Horse racing is horse racing and seen in Hong Kong as an old person’s pastime no matter how many times one hears abysmal versions of hits by Queen in the Beer Garden. This is just hammy and uncool and neither here nor there. It’s more random foo foo.


Many of core fans of horse racing are now in their sixties and seventies and still reminiscing about Hong Kong over forty years ago.


We’re these times as romantic as some paint them out to be? 


Wasn’t there much trickery afoot during those always interesting and arresting colonial days when the once barren rock was just starting to find its feet?






Hong Kong didn’t happen overnight. It took decades of hits and misses to become the vibrant and international city that it became.




As for the Here and Now, there’s been a paradigm shift like everywhere else in the world, and it’s one that had to happen- in every business and every aspect of Hong Kong life. 


Today, for example, Hong Kong born jockey Vincent CY Ho has made his mark on horse racing’s global stage, and it’s very obvious as to who wants to be seen as part of this success story and why. 



Nothing wrong with this as it probably has to do with holding onto the baton and continuing to be seen as a number one dim sum. 


It’s quite something to watch the foreplay at work and those minions trying to hold onto coattails and their gigs, but it is what it isn’t and many going through various insecurities.



Not only in horse racing, but in other businesses, the localisation of Hong Kong has been taken over by patriotism to the motherland. 


Those pukka colonial days of the Taipan and the Noble House are over and done with and are gone along with the scones and egg tarts.


Some in racing might not like it, but Pierre Ng, below, is the new golden boy in the training ranks followed by more Hong Kong born talent like Danny Shum, Francis Lui and Frankie Lor. 



What about someone like John Size? The 

master trainer has had a terrific run and now in the twilight of an incredible career, perhaps he realises that nothing and no one lasts forever- especially in what is now Hong Kong, China.



For some of us who have lived in Hong Kong for over fifty and even sixty years and have seen its evolution and those original game changers, this is home. 


It’s now about using all the experience gained and lessons learned to give back to a city that has been very good to our parents, family, and at least try to strengthen the Made In Hong Kong brand by making it something new and relevant and not more cookie cutter thinking.

This is where the city needs a nonprofit organisation like the Hong Kong Jockey Club to show its continued commitment to the community in ways it perhaps hasn’t even thought about. 


Slapping itself on the back time and time again about turnover figures, attendance numbers, freebies and everything else to do only with horse racing has become rather boring and vapid exercises in self promotion, and seen by some as selling and feeding more and more greed.



For the international mainstream media to come on board and be interested in the business model of the “Hong Kong China Jockey Club” and everything it might be able to bring for the “betterment” of the community, there needs to be that elusive something that has a creative and compelling emotional attachment attached to it.


Perhaps the HKJC needs its own Don Draper or Keith Reinhard.





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