Sha Tin Diary - Reflections

The 2017 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races last Sunday at Sha Tin was labelled by the hosts, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, as ‘an outstanding day of international sport’ and so it was.

Hong Kong dominated with victories to trainers John Size, John Moore, Tony Cruz and jockeys Nash Rawiller, Derek Leung and Zac Purton and Ireland provided the superlative retirement victory of Highland Reel (IRE).

The numbers backed the claim up with astonishing turnover of HK$1.6 billion a new record for the meeting and up 5.4% on last year. Co-mingling turnover made up just short of HK$200 million. The crowd was 94,560.

“It was the second-highest attendance – only a little down on last year – and that really produced a great atmosphere. We also had record turnover – HK$82 million more than last year. That’s an extremely satisfactory result,” said Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.

Englbrecht-Bresges was being modest as satisfactory it certainly was, but the ambition is there for greater heights.

“We want the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races to be the greatest show on turf and today we witnessed some sensational performances,” he said after the meeting.

“I think we are at a very high level, we have a very attractive global product, but we know that resting on laurels never works and we will sit down and see how we can develop this meeting going forward – we think this meeting has further potential as one of the sport’s great world events.”

This ambition is not just for Hong Kong. There are significant spins offs for the rest of the thoroughbred industry, not the least in participating in wagering co-mingling. But also for runners, owners, trainers, jockeys, every facet of the industry.

Australia for one racing jurisdiction needs to find a path to clear the current quarantine issues, quickly, otherwise it will be left out. Collaboration is required and the blue print is there. Government officials from the Hong Kong SAR and the Chinese Mainland, along with industry experts from around the world, toured Conghua Training Centre on Wednesday.

However, back to last Sunday, international sport can be ruthless and bedevilled by all manner of indiscretions. Sportsmanship can be in short supply from time to time, but on Sunday it was there for all to witness and appreciate.

Derek Leung celebrates, picture Liesl King

Derek Leung’s all the way win on John Moore’s Beauty Generation (NZ) in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) set the stands alight

The 29-year-old claimed his first Group 1 win and became just the second home-grown graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School, after Matthew Chadwick, to win an international race at the HKIR meeting.

The crowd cheered for Leung, the weighing room staff stood and applauded as he returned to the scales. Fellow jockeys congratulated him. A warm embrace from rival and colleague Olivier Doleuze said it all.

Doleuze was part of another wonderful gesture when he was second on D B Pin (NZ) in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) to John Size’s Mr Stunning (AUS) ridden by Nash Rawiller.

As the went past the line Doleuze stood in the irons and put his arm across to Rawiller’s shoulder in congratulations of Rawiller’s winning performance, his first Group 1 at a HKIR meeting. Rawiller and Mr Stunning sailed away round the top bend with Rawiller’s left arm held high in salute. Fittingly Rawiller had his family there to enjoy and soak it all in.

International sport it was, at its finest.

Nash Rawiller thanks Mr Stunning (AUS), picture Liesl King