Jenny - Clean


A new season of racing commences in Hong Kong on Sunday with a new chief steward asking to remain invisible and let the headlines be made on the track between some of the best jockeys, trainers and horses in the world.

“If I wanted my name in the newspaper I would have gone into politics,” Kim Kelly told the Hong Kong media as he prepared for his first meeting in the challenging role of HKJC chief steward.

Kelly wants to take a backseat role to the much anticipated on-track battle for riding honors between old rivals Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble and the return bout for the training championship involving Caspar Fownes, John Moore and John Size.

Australian interest in Hong Kong racing continues to grow largely because of the increasing number of local horses being exported there and the number of expatriates playing key roles in the training and riding ranks. This website – – will provide ratings for every Sunday meeting at Sha Tin.

From a punting perspective Hong Kong racing could become even more interesting soon with HKJC chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, confident the Hong Kong Government will agree to co-mingling of betting pools this season.

This would mean that other countries could bet into Hong Kong’s multi-million dollar pools. Engelbrecht-Bresges wants to get his hands on the estimated $A15 billion being wagered on Hong Kong racing in other countries, which would generate more than $A30 million in tax revenue for the Government.

Having finally been given approval for five more race meetings each season - the first of 83 to be run next Sunday - Engelbrecht-Bresges said he would now up the ante for co-mingling to be introduced.

Australian racing fans, for instance, can watch and bet on Hong Kong’s racing, but the pools on the Australian TABs is not large. Under a co-mingling agreement, Australian betting operators would send those bets through to the much larger and more attractive pools in Hong Kong. And so would South Africa, France and other jurisdictions around the globe.

The 2009-10 season marks the 125th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which was established in 1884. Chairman, John C Chan, recently announced a series of programs to commemorate the special milestone under the banner of ‘Racing Ahead of You.’

“The Club has always been an important part of Hong Kong society and is committed to providing world-class sporting and betting entertainment, as well as being the city's community benefactor,” Mr Chan said.  “Through our not-for-profit business model, we intend to continue excelling in both respects, with the goal of ‘Racing Ahead for You’.”

Mr Chan said that over the past 125 years, racing had not only become an important part of Hong Kong people’s lives, but also helped Hong Kong establish a high reputation in international sporting circles.

“We achieved International Group One status for all four Hong Kong International Races within a record five years, which is no small feat, and serves as recognition of the Club’s comprehensive strategies and product development efforts.”

Citing the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races in December as an example, Mr Chan said this annual event was now ‘a must on racing calendars’ and had become widely recognized as the Turf World Championships, attracting many overseas visitors. Hong Kong horses had also achieved outstanding results internationally, with two locally-trained horses rated among the world’s top six thoroughbreds this year.

With the help of the resources of the turf section of the South China Morning Post we take a look at the key players as Hong Kong racing heads into an exciting new season:


Racing writer, Alan Aitken, recently posed the question in the SCMP: How will they beat Douglas Whyte in his quest for a 10th straight jockeys' championship?

Rather than ask Whyte - who is loathe to give many clues away – Aitken went to the jockey who gave him a fright three seasons back then chased him home again in 2008 and 2009.

Australian Brett Prebble laughed at the enormity of the task ahead: “If you say it quickly, it sounds simple - be consistent, get strong support across the board, stay in Hong Kong and stay out of the stewards’ room.

“But saying it is a lot easier than getting it done,” Prebble replied. “Douglas doesn’t lose concentration all season. After such a long reign here he has the kind of support that allows him to get on and off horses when he likes and he is a top-class rider. It’s a tough recipe to overcome.”

Prebble has averaged 80 wins for the past three terms and has been the only jockey during Whyte’s reign to really get a sniff of toppling him in that memorable 2006-07 season. He and the Durban Demon traded the championship lead, bringing home doubles and trebles meeting after meeting through May and June until the South African finally prevailed.

“It was great theatre, good for both of us and really good for racing,” Prebble told the SCMP. “But the difficulty with the championship is that you have to make a decision on your targets - the championship or the big races.

“I’m quite proud of the fact I’ve been the most successful Hong Kong-based rider in big overseas events but, to keep doing that, I have to go away for those races and that gives Douglas an edge with my absence. The difference would be for me if I was in front or level with him after three months and feeling like it’s a realistic chase. But mostly, I've been a slow starter and already giving a decent start by that time – it’s easy to look at it then and say you’d rather target the majors.”

After six years, Prebble has the status that allows him the freedom to choose and reject mounts, but he said there is a price to pay for that privilege. “I will have great across-the-board support this year, with quite a few of the Chinese trainers, a strong link with Caspar Fownes and even John Size has said he’ll use me more.

“But Caspar, for example, doesn't appreciate jockeys getting on for one ride then jumping off - which is probably why he doesn’t use Douglas much - and that can be crucial in winning a tight championship race. My view of the title is that if it happens, it happens, but, as always, I'll be trying to give Douglas a run for his money.”

Whyte's typical response to another title defense: “I'm as hungry as I’ve ever been. I wish Brett and the other boys well.”



YOU need look no further than a few months back to the exciting finish to the last season to see just how tight the battle for the trainers’ championship can be. The result was not determined until the final day when Caspar Fownes prevailed from John Moore and John Size.

Those close to the action in Hong Kong racing, headed by the turf team at the SCMP, are declaring the Australian Size the one to beat this time around.

They argue that he has managed to turn over a fair proportion of his team and has a balanced stable in terms of ratings, with more than half to begin in Class 4 or lower, where just under 50 per cent of last season’s races were decided.

His team is spearheaded by the likes of Sight Winner, More Bountiful and Enthused with strong support from Armada, Special Days, Unique Jewellery and Brilliant Chapter. Add to that the untapped Tuscan Spirit and last season's Derby hopeful, Diego, which never quite got going due to foot problems.

In contrast they argue that Fownes does not seem to have a lot of room to move in the ratings with those late-season winners, which delivered him the crown. There are exciting prospects like the former Victorian star, Fair Trade and the year older Young Elite, along with the likes of Green Birdie and Jackpot Delight.

But for bread and butter types, Fownes will have to rely largely on a handful of new horses or will have to wait - as he did last season to such great effect - until the second half when a drop in rating may improve the prospects for last season’s stars.

In terms of the championship, Moore's team has a top-heavy look with only 12 of his yard rated low enough to start the season in Class 4 or 5. Still, this is probably a team that he is happy with in regard to his stated ambition for each term of being leading trainer by stakes.

Derby hero Collection is the standout, but Moore has four other Group 1 winners, including Viva Pataca, plus promising Happy Zero and a number of Class 1 and 2 types that could progress to winning a nice race. The real strength of his feature team will only become apparent as his Northern Hemisphere purchases arrive and settle in.

The improver could be Tony Cruz. He has not really been a serious championship contender since the 2004-05 season, but was quietly holding his own last term behind the championship players.

Cruz has a balance to his team and some young Class 4 horses which showed ability as griffins but will be all the better for the break. How much progress they have made will have a bearing on his title chances, but where he is sure to make ground is in acquisitions, during and since last season.

Fallen idol Medic Power won his only run for Cruz, who hinted at a lot more to come, and the lightly raced Roma Pegasus and Prime Champion can be expected to make more impact in their second campaigns. Cruz has already produced a Derby hope in Beauty Flash and Dream Team also has a good race in him this season.



OUTSTANDING gallopers like Sacred Kingdom, Viva Pataca, Good Ba Ba and even Egyptian Ra have already made their mark on the Hong Kong scene but several others are ready to race into the spotlight in the new season.

There are the likes of the brilliant Collection, which is heading to Dubai; Thumbs Up, which finished a game second to Collection in the Derby; and the promising More Bountiful, whose first season results were quite incredible. The rising star could be the former Australian, Fair Trade, which looked so impressive at his Hong Kong debut.

Trainer John Moore has decided against a Cox Plate campaign in Australia with Collection preferring to concentrate on the Hong Kong Cup in December and possible Horse of the Year honors.

Thumps Up is bursting to win a big race and will no doubt be set for the Hong Kong Vase by the Danny Chum stable. Both he and Collection could eventually be headed to Dubai.

In the sprinting ranks there is the lightly-raced but brilliant Happy Zero, Tuscan Spirit and the unbeaten Sun Trooper. Not to mention Medic Power, who showed a glimpse of his former brilliance when a first-up winner for new trainer, Tony Cruz, toward the end of last season.


KIM Kelly, the former leading Queensland and New South Wales steward who has made it to the top in Hong Kong, will be in the spotlight from the start of the season in his new and challenging role as Chief Steward.

“I don't have the looks for Hollywood, so if I wanted my name and my photo in the paper all the time, I’d have gone into politics," Kelly told the South China Morning Post.

“Stewards are a bit like referees. If we’re not the post-race focus of the racing journalists every day then we’re probably doing a good job. It’s in the nature of stewarding that we will be the focus at certain times, but the fewer people highlighting what we did and the more they are focusing on the racing, then the happier I’ll be.”

Kelly replaces Jamie Stier in the hot seat and expects little to change on racing’s judicial side, but he is emphasizing the ‘c’ word. Or words.

“Take your pick - consistency, communication. I’ve been here for some years, the system in general won’t change a lot and my major aims will be safety and integrity, just as they are for all stewards,” Kelly said.

“But I have stressed to my team that we also want consistency. Whether we are talking about the punter or the licensed professionals, jockeys and trainers, I want them to be able to look at our decisions in March and compare them with what we did in November in a similar situation and see that decisions are being made on the same consistent basis.

“I've found that people are less worried about where you put the goal posts - that is, your interpretation of the written rules - than they are about the posts being moved from one incident to another.”

But what the racing press may notice as new is Kelly’s wish for greater communication - and the fact that it’s a two-way street.

“Racing is founded on opinions, and I know that in everything we do there are countless people out there - in the public, in the media - who think they can do this job as well as or better than I can,” Kelly said.

“And I'm comfortable with that because racing is about opinions. And I am always ready to talk. If people in the media want to discuss decisions, that’s fine with me. But I want them to know that, if their criticism is unfair or just plain wrong, then I won’t hesitate to call them either.”

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