I’m here at Sha Tin, and at the risk of being repetitive year on year, it’s a breath of fresh air in comparison to how us “journos” are treated at home in the UK. Forgetting any perks they actually welcome us to the track each day and bombard my little brain with more information than I can take in, form gallops reports to trainer quotes to race times to going conditions.
No hiding behind bushes on the Newmarket heath to ascertain a horse’s well-being via the gallops here, horses are paraded in front of us each morning, connections talk openly, and after a much needed caffeine hit we troop in to listen to the jockey interviews –British racing please take note not just or our sake but for the international guests that ascend on the likes of Royal Ascot each year to be nigh on ignored.
I have never been a great one for watching work (four legs and a pulse is all I can accurately identify from our equine pals), but I am good at listening in to other’s conversations and I am rather hoping that may well point me in the direction of a winner or two by Sunday.
Personally, one of my faults is bias – I like certain trainers, jockeys, and horses before I even arrived here and it will take something special to change my mind. That only makes me human in my defence, so whether Highland Reel looked as good in his work as I thought or whether I was looking through rose-tinted spectacles is hard to define and I will update on that once I listen to my fellow judges and eventually draw my conclusion.
The French seem happy with their charges from what I could gather, with Corine Barande-Barbe one of the most charming women you could ever hope to meet and a ray of sunshine each and every morning. For that reason alone, Garlingari is added to my shortlist but is that a good enough reason?
Whispers this morning are that Ryan Moore is struggling to choose between Lancaster Bomber and Roly Poly for the mile which suggests there is little between the two, and that Neorealism may well have had enough for the season, but I cannot emphasise enough that these are only unsubstantiated rumours and this is a room full of journalists who like to be heard.
Last part of the day was a trip out for a racecourse presentation on the new Hong Kong Jockey Club training centre that will be based over the border in China at Conghua which, unsurprisingly, looks to be state of the art.
We haven’t physically seen it yet, hopefully next year, but you could not fail to note the excitement and anticipation in the speakers’ voices as they ran through everything from journey times to quarantine, capacity to equine swimming pools.
My understanding is that it will allow more horses in to training (fascinating fact – there is a four year waiting sit to be an owner here, can you imagine the jealousy in every other racing jurisdiction of that little statistic), so it clearly makes economic sense in the long run, and with space obviously at a premium in Hong Kong, it must have been an obvious brainwave to set one up over the border.
Conghua Training Centre in late November, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club