On the 12-12-12, how many omen punters were on number 12 – Glory Win – in the first race at Happy Valley last night? And how many were doubling their bets given the ancient Mayan civilisation predicts the end of the world is next week?
Adding to the sense of impending doom was an Andy Leung Ting-wah-trained winner – something long cited as a sign of the apocalypse, and a win by 50-1 pop Peppermint that left a nasty taste in everyone’s mouths.
In a culture already steeped in superstition, betting becomes an outlet for all sorts of bizarre beliefs and zany systems. For instance, don’t ever touch someone on the shoulder when they’re betting – it’s considered extremely bad luck.
And, while this one might be exaggerated a touch, it was said that lucky number eight was always over-bet in the old days, and no one wanted a tip for the four – that number sounds too much like the word for “death”.
Anyone taking Glory Win’s win as a Nostradamus-like sign and launching into a “number 12 roll-up” was in for a long night as the next seven “12s” – the bottom weights at Happy Valley – all ran unplaced.
In his last season as a trainer, Leung seems to be pulling out all stops and is on a hot streak. He hadn’t won in more than a month leading into last night’s fixture, but “hot streak” is a relative term used here.
Handy Andy’s sixth win in 59 starts gives him a strike rate of better than 10 per cent and has him approaching last term’s mark of nine wins – and we’re not even one-third of the way through the season.
There’s only one thing better than following Andy’s horses at the moment – following his former horses. Home With Glory had bottomed out on 42 with “the feng shui master” – but in the hands of the astute Peter Ng Bik-kuen, and given his head as a free-striding front-runner, the horse has now won back-to-back races.
Maybe Andy is trying to reach his quota of wins before next Friday – when the Mayan calendar ends, a 5,125-year cycle known as the “Long Count”, and all kinds of nasty doom and gloom threatens to descend.
Trainers are apparently even rushing to get their horses to the track, to squeeze that last, or first and only, win out of their charges.
Australian-based Kiwi trainer Bjorn Baker had some fun – we think – with the Sydney racing press when he claimed the preparation of in-form stayer Cantonese was being geared around the “Long Count”.
The open-minded young horseman will back up Cantonese in the Listed Christmas Cup at Rosehill tomorrow. “The Mayan calendar has predicted the end of the world on Friday week, so that doesn’t leave much time to win a race with him,” he said.
There are a range of crazy predictions of what will happen in seven days. Some believe aliens hidden inside a French mountain will reveal themselves, or a rogue planet named Nibiru will emerge from behind the sun and smash into Earth.
Also among the delightfully upbeat scenarios some soothsayers have in store: a black hole sucking earth into oblivion and, what seems to be the popular choice in China, a world-ending flood which has a couple of wannabe Noahs building arks.
However outlandish or irrational these prophecies seem, none would be considered as crazy as predicting last night’s form turnaround for Peppermint, which had even trainer Caspar Fownes perplexed.
A win like Peppermint’stends to knock the confidence around a bit. But Hong Kong punters always bet like it is the end of the world anyway, and after the HK$1.26 billion betting bonanza on international day last Sunday, they backed up at the Valley with another spending spree at the windows.
The tote board spun out of control and an astronomical HK$174 million was splurged on the last – the meeting eventually topping nearly HK$970 million in total turnover.
So as much as we are looking forward to the Friday night meeting at Happy Valley on December 28, if the Mayans are right it may never happen. Instead, maybe we can expect a rush on credit betting, more winners from Andy and form reversals more miraculous than Moses parting the seas on Sunday.