On The Rails
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 11:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 11:44am

Live webcast of top Hong Kong races is just a matter of will

The Jockey Club has the technology to showcase our international races to the world, if only they would click the button


Alan Aitken has worked in all facets of the media and was the master of the famous AJC Punters Podium at Sydney racecourses for many years. He was one of Australia's most respected racing journalists over almost two decades with The Sydney Morning Herald before joining SCMP in 2001. Alan also has extensive magazine and radio experience and is a respected racing form analyst.

We recall being loaned a friend's videotape - yes, a videotape and probably Beta format - of the television coverage of the Breeders' Cup meeting almost 20 years ago.

Great racing action, even if drug-soused and much of it on the dirt tracks for which we don't really care, but the striking thing about last weekend's Breeders' Cup was what had changed and how little had changed.

The 2013 coverage itself, well, like television coverage of racing everywhere, hasn't come very far in the past 20 years and just looked a clearer version of those old tapes. Plenty of talking heads sitting at a desk and opinions backed up by evidence like "I think", plenty of track jargon, shots of the horses parading and shots of dolled-up wives and girlfriends likewise.

Nothing especially explanatory or clever or gimmicky to woo the "track curious", as other sports have changed their presentations. (Although former top jockey and part of the commentary team, Richard Migliore, produced a line for the ages in a discussion of a particular ride, saying, "Jockeys probably get too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose".) On the plus side for the coverage, say what you will about the Breeders' Cup people - and it probably helps to be in California - but they can pull a celebrity at Santa Anita. They had Grammy award winner Toni Braxton singing the national anthem, a legendary rock guitarist, Richie Sambora, playing the call to post, interviews with a world famous celebrity television chef, Bobby Flay, et al.

Yes, star power was a strong suit along with the delivery, which was the thing which has really changed for the better.

It might be as recently as last year's Breeders' Cup, but the best you could do for vision was to wait until the organisers posted a replay on their website, some time after the races were run.

This year, it was a live web feed of the Horse Racing TV channel's coverage and it was fast and clear - just like watching your television.

In many jurisdictions, broadcast rights to live vision are fragmented or somehow an obstacle to being able to webcast highlight-level horseracing to a world eager for it, but obviously that isn't the case on US racing's biggest day (however beloved the Kentucky Derby might be). And nor is it the case in Hong Kong.

The Jockey Club is a model of vertical integration and owns everything that opens and shuts in racing here, from the sport itself to the actual production of the broadcasts, and there seems no good reason why the Longines Hong Kong International meeting cannot also be webcast live with unfettered access to anyone, anywhere. No passwords or forms to fill in or betting accounts required, just a chance for any racing fan to enjoy Hong Kong racing's showpiece.

We broached the subject with club officials on Sunday at Sha Tin and it seems the whole matter is now being examined for the webcasting of the International Jockeys Championship night at Happy Valley as well as the main race day, maybe even this year.

Is that expecting too much? Maybe, maybe not, but we are sure that it's the way of the future and the way to attract some serious attention ahead of the anticipated launch of commingling with other countries later this month.

Now all we need is a legendary guitarist or two.



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