Before the Hong Kong Jockey Club gives out its annual awards after the embarrassing spectacle of seeing jockeys filmed begging people to vote for them to be Hong Kong’s “most popular jockey”- truly cringe-worthy stuff that has been around for too long and something the Club should get rid off next season- we thought we’d give out our own Awards for this season.

Sure, there are a handful of meetings left, but the Fat Lady has sung, most expat jockeys and trainers have one foot on the plane, it’s time for the local trainers and jockeys to make hay while the sun shines and which is possibly why trying to win these days is nearly impossible and with horses without names coming in.

Of course, financially, it has been another record season and in Happy Valley, the HKJC has a real winner with the Beer Garden and now, Adrenaline, the home of the IBU board. When Gai and Robbie Waterhouse visited Happy Valley recently, both were knocked out by the Club and its features and were wonderful PR ambassadors for what really is the best racing club in the world.

Adrenaline has really taken off and with a very different type of customer to the more casual and carefree crowd at the equally popular BeerGarden.

The other venue called The Gallery is Okay though a little too damn bright for us and reminds many of our mates of a dim sum house. Still, horses for courses and one man’s meat is another man’s Barramundi. And with this in mind, our Awards…

********************************************

HORSE OF THE YEAR: LITTLE BRIDGE

What, you were, perhaps, expecting Saddler’s Lodge, one of the most disappointing horses going around?

Nah, after its win at Royal Ascot, this award was as sure as Stevie Wonder singing, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.”

As for Saddler’s Lodge and so many from the Sean Woods yard, we are dumbfounded how shockingly they have continued to run- nearby construction work or no construction work. What Wendyl Woods was to riding, Sean Woods is to training.

Both lovely chaps, of course.

********************************************

THE “DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY” SPOILT SPORT AWARD: TRAINER MANFRED MAN

There he goes just-a-walking down the street, going “Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dumb Did He Do.” How this Manfred Man could pour cold water over the win of Little Bridge at Royal Ascot and talk about the lack of prize money was baffling to understand. One has to wonder what the Man Called Manfred- and not A Man Called Horse- would have said if one of his “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” horses actually won a race even in that equine junkyard called Macau.

********************************************

JOCKEY OF THE YEAR: ZAC “ATTACK” PURTON

Yes, there re many knockers and some say he’s ego’s outta whack, but we like “The Zac Attack.”

He’s grown up being in Hong Kong, he’s become a far better jockey, he’s starting to understand how to play the game and we see him succeeding where many others have failed. Will he keep both feet on the ground? We reckon he’s already got this cemented.

********************************************

THE 12X12 AWARD: DOUGLAS WHYTE

Twelve consecutive Jockey Premierships? What more can we say?

Perhaps only that here is the consummate professional, who keeps to himself, trusts very few people, has many around him red, blue and green with jealousy and he just continues regardless- and year after year after year. He is a great ambassador for Hong Kong and Hong Kong racing and, we feel, is yet to get his due credit for these twelve consecutive Jockey Premierships and which no one will ever emulate. Hell, what more can we say? We said so much, we’re fucking breathless. One final word about The Whyte Man: We love his baubles, bangles and beads, but the blue-pipe lined jacket must go; It makes him look like the lead singer in a Filipino show band. Or the only Whyte member in the Temptations.

********************************************

THE DORIAN GRAY AWARD: TRAINER ANDY WT LEUNG

Extraordinarily, Andy found out at the age of 64 and with compulsory retirement staring him in the face that he was actually 63. What does this mean? One extra year of seeing his motley crew of horses go around without winning- unless by total fluke. Why on earth a jockey the caliber of Brett Doyle rode for him is beyond us. Guess money talked until even the money refused to talk back.

********************************************

THE STARSKY AND HUTCH AWARD: JOHN SIZE AND DOUGLAS WHYTE

Size matters and some crackling Whyte lightning does the rest and, together, they make a real winning team- and have been for years.

Both are Champions in their own right, the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, they have tremendous and mutual respect for each other and rarely has Hong Kong seen teamwork like this.

If he ever wishes to be a Trainer when he hangs up his boots, DW Whyte is learning every day from a real master.

********************************************

THE DARTH VADER AWARD: DAVID FERRARIS

For a while, “Darth” Ferraris walked around with a huge black cloud hanging over his head.

Nothing was going right: The nearby construction work was said to be spooking his horses and driving him, too, bonkers.

Some of his best horses left his yard for elsewhere- and all flopped.

He took his horse Bear Hero to Melbourne and where it was lucky to get out alive.

His horses kept getting beaten by a whisker.

One of his best horses- Sweet Orange- should have won three major races.

Tye Angland rode a rather non-masterful ride aboard his Liberator- and “Darth” flipped out.

He tired of jockeys and disposed of them as easily as a pair of old socks.

And then, the heavens opened up! Liberator ran a magnificent race to win under a masterful ride by Weichong Marwing.

The winners kept coming in singles and doubles.

Once again, all was and is wonderful aboard the Ferraris wheel.

********************************************

THE BIG WALLY AWARD: WALLY PYRAH

We try to forget, but some of us remember Wally Pyrah from the UK where he was something of a racing personality.

What does The Wally aka Max Headroom do for the HKJC? We’re really unsure though some tell us he’s a tipster, bon vivant, serial flirt and Customer Relations man.

How worthwhile are his tips? About ten cents- max. What we do find interesting, however, is his perennial tan and the way he strides in such a mainly across the Beer Garden like a cardboard cut-out. Or Frankenstein.

Thank gawd, we didn’t have to listen to his waffling during the simulcast of the races from Ascot.

We had enough of prattle emanating outta the UK to deal with- most of which we could not understand for the plums in the mouth.

********************************************

MOST IMPROVED JOCKEY: BEN TH SO

We might have said Keith Yeung, but he had improved the season earlier after some much-needed tutelage under Douglas Whyte.

Ben TH So has himself and trainer Peter Ho to thank for his improvement as a jockey.

The SoHo combination ticked and the one-time kid who was only So-So and as weak as a bowl of melted jello in a finish looked as if he had taken lessons under Bruce Lee.

Almost overnight, he kept banging in winners and has the record of being on the most number of successful plunges- one memorable plunge on the David Hall-trained Berio which crashed from 14s to 3s.

What’s worrying however is his sudden affliction in getting his mounts out of the barriers- post haste. He would usually just bounce them to the front and ride them for dear life though not the way Derek Cruz used to when he was a jockey. Gawd, Derek was an awful jockey. No Ben So is worse than so-so these days with his tardy starts and it won’t take long for the Stewards to ask him to improve before they disapprove and the public gets suss over his rides.

On the subject of plunges and wins from the Hall yard, one wonders just how much a few people won on the Mark Zahra-ridden Summer Dash.

From what we hear, plenty- and with many in Shatin complaining about all the ruckus coming outta Hall’s apartment- loud music, tables, chairs and whatever else being banged and thrown around- and, apparently, Zahra and brother-in-law Brett Prebble at the celebration party. We just wish we were there.

********************************************

UNSETTLED BUSINESS: JOHN MOORE AND DARREN BEADMAN

Let’s just say that the Fat Lady is only clearing her throat and she’s not singing, “Forgive and forget.”

Bottom line: Someone has to pay up before she belts up.

Plus, what has happened to a jockey that is the legend that is Darren Beadman cannot- and should not- be swept under the carpet .

Also interesting to see is what happens when “Jungle John” hits 65- and which is just around the corner.

We doubt that even the “Master Gunner” can “do an Andy Leung” and give JJ another few years as a trainer no matter how much “loyal service” he has given Hong Kong racing.

Let the Queen give him an OBE and be done with that part of business.

********************************************

COUPLE OF THE YEAR: FORMER SKY TV PRESENTER JO MCKINNON AND TRAINER RICHARD GIBSON

It’s now apparent that Richard Gibson is not only good at training winners. He’s also no pie-in-the-sky man and goes after some worthwhile fillies like Sky TV’s Jo McKinnon. “Jo Jo” has been in and out of Hong Kong many times during the International Races and she has been in and outta Hong Kong even more frequently after hooking up with the very dapper Gibson. Will she be sitting at Shatin and doing crossword puzzles and becoming part of the Wisteria Lane where all the other jockeys and trainers girlfriends and wives hang out to dry? We really doubt it. Watch her get a high profile gig very soon- and as long as no one whines how it might be a conflict of interest.

********************************************

THE OTHER COUPLE OF THE YEAR: TELEVISION SPORTS PRESENTER KIT LEE AND JOCKEY DEREK LEUNG

Kit Lee is a Pinup Girl with many young males in Hong Kong. She’s attractive, she knows her football, she reports on it and she knows her racing. She’ll now be learning more about racing as she is dating talented young local rider Derek Leung. Ever since their romance blossomed, Leung has suddenly been banging in almost a winner every meeting. Formerly associated with a number of other females, one of whom cost him a few rides from the David Hall yard as “Hally’s” Assistant Trainer lost his girl to Leung’s riding talents and hell hath no fury like an Assistant Trainer scorned, this relationship seems to be a lasting one. Well, at least stronger than the relationship between Hall and his Assistant who, we understand, was given the boot.

********************************************

SHAMELESS PHOTO HOGGER OF THE YEAR: NATALIS CHAN

Last weekend, actor and one-time singer of a band named the Loosers- he was fired from the band for being a loser- Natalis Chan- he never ever loses on the races- managed to burrow his way into not one, not two, not even three, but FIVE photographs in the winner’s circle. Though he gave the impression that he had some vested financial interest in all the horses, of course, he does not. It was all part of the man’s ongoing and perennial self-promotion campaign. To ensure he stood out from the crowd, the usually blond-haired Natalis- sounds like a sexually transmitted disease- had dyed his hair a blue-ish-purple hue and cry.

We still remember the time when the Natalis was a lousy trainer in Macau and with Joe Murphy, Declan Murphy’s brother, his long-suffering Assistant but who did all the training. When Joe mercifully took over the stable and the Natalis went off to make movies, there was the time when one of Joe’s horses won a major race. As the Natalis rushed out from nowhere and grabbed the reins of the wining horse, one of the greatest things happened: The real owner of the horse shoved him away and barred him from being in the winning photograph- and the racing media went mad.

********************************************

“Battling” local jockey Terry Wong has lost his staunchest supporter in Mr.Kwok. Mr. Kwok, who often bets on every horse in a race to show that he has “won”, even petitioned the HKJC Licensing Committee last season to keep “Battling” Wong battling for one more season. With a number of horses with David Hall in a rather surreal partnership where both owners and trainer cannot really communicate with each other, Wong rode all of Kwok’ horses- all those Lue Yu and Jun-named horses. Alas, seeing the ease in which Brett Prebble won on one of his “Yue” horses a week ago, Mr. Kwok, who- oh dear- retains former local jockey Simon HK Yim as his “form expert” has bid Adieu to the services of Wong.

The picture below says much about Mr. Kwok and was taken some seasons ago when one of his horses- given zero chance- got up at sky-high odds. Pictured is Mr. Kwok who was coerced to leave his lunch and come down for the winning picture. It took him around 15 minutes to make his way down for the winning pose – and which is a real classic.

On the subject of winners, Terry Wong is standing on 99 wins for his career- and it’s taken him around seven years to get here. Derek Leung got his 100 winners a few weeks ago after only four years and despite being indentured to the yard of Paul O’Sullivan- a lovely man, yes, but hardly the most successful trainer in Hong Kong and another battler and always battling away to get some new blood into his embattled stable.

********************************************

Questions for the end of the season: Will John Moore lose Smart Giant and a number of other horses?

Smart Giant will run again soon, so let’s see how well it does.

Meanwhile, for how much longer will Johnson Lee keep Ambitious Dragon with “Millie” Millard?

Also, is the trainer losing the support of riders when it should be the other way around?

We also wonder how long Jolly Victor will stay in his yard.

Those behind the horse are said to have taken two severe beatings backing their new horse following an unlucky third at its first start when it really should have won and an appalling performance last Sunday.

********************************************

So, until early September, adieu, goodbye, see you soon, back some winners, ride a few winners, and remember that Winners Are Grinners.

Hit it, boys!