Kwok comes calling and love is in the air
The mainstream media frenzy inspired by celebrity Aaron Kwok Fu-shing brightened proceedings at Sha Tin on Sunday, but even the Canto-pop star’s omnipresent sunglasses couldn’t hide the glaringly obvious. This was another dreary day that would have otherwise sunk into a mire of mediocrity – the monotony not helped by a select few trainers that would rather talk to horses than reporters.
Kwok’s on-course arrival was eagerly anticipated by a ravenous press pack of what seemed like hundreds of entertainment reporters brandishing their comically over-sized microphones, Jockey Club officials handling a rush of one-off accreditations on what was kindly described by some as an “industry meeting” – i.e. no real feature races and zero glamour.
The big race was an average Class Two handicap and even some of the winning trainers on the day seemed to lose interest, leaving reporters to fight over monosyllabic scraps of quotes.
Kwok’s good mate and trainer, Caspar Fownes, has a touch of rock star in him, and seems to intuitively understand the need to promote the “industry” beyond the standard “who won and why?” Fownes is a genuinely funny man, who in another life could have been a talk show host. So when Kwok’s first ever runner in a race saluted, he played his usual part, whooping it up as only he can.
Judging by the media mayhem, Kwok’s fame means he won’t ever be having a relaxing day at the races, but he was a good sport anyway, patiently answering questions for nearly 30 minutes after Calling With Love’s victory and providing the Jockey Club with priceless publicity.
If only some of the licensees were so helpful in furthering the cause of their sport. At least our favourite trainer, Andy Leung Ting-wah, was back – his second winner in as many meetings definitely constituting a “hot streak” by his standards.
“I’ve proven the handicapper wrong again,” he proudly exclaimed after Daily Double’s win, the same reason he gave for his first win of the season, stated as if there was a real skill in getting a horse with actual ability into the lowest grade possible.
At least that quote, however counter-productive to his own interests and the image-building of racing, added some colour – more than the tight-lipped cynicism old-school trainer Peter Ng Bik-kuen served up yesterday.
Despite training a double, Ng seemed on a mini media ban, sarcastically saying the key to Dane Patrol now being able to run a strong 1,000 metres was because “I told him he could do it”. Luckily, the rider of one of his winners, Derek Leung Ka-chun, added some humour, saying Ng’s Taknam had an action “kind of like a cow’s”.
Still, Ng’s response wasn’t the shortest, or cleverest, answer to a question from this reporter; last season Me Tsui Yu-sak was asked, “Can I have a quick word in English?”, “No,” Tsui replied with a smirk before scurrying off – Well, he didn’t lie, it was a quick word and it was in English.
Ng has now reached the same retirement age as the revitalised Leung and he is an extremely personable and knowledgeable chap. But he would rather talk about Champions League footie than the chances of one of his horses – what’s the point of that? He came through the ranks in an era where it was all about landing a bet and if any insight was shared, it was kept strictly for “friends of the stable”.
Times have changed though, and participants now have a responsibility to promote the industry – just as Kwok did for free, providing trainers with a lesson in Publicity 101, as he blew into Sha Tin, and back out again, like a public relations tornado.