making dreams come true. By Fionnuala McHugh. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges is director of racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. He started work on April 15, 1998, after the usual round of lengthy interviews, but had I been on the Jockey Club panel I would have given him the job the moment I heard the story behind his jaw-busting name. His wife Astrid Bresges is the eldest daughter of a family which owns a well-known German stud-farm; he is the only son of the Engelbrecht family, well-known in the insurance business. Neither wanted to lose the family surname to matrimony. 'The name of the most famous horse-race in the world, the Derby, was decided by the toss of a coin. So two weeks before we married, we tossed a coin. This is the first time I have lost when I do this ... and I had to carry the double name. Now I say that anybody in Hong Kong who pronounces it right first time deserves a medal.' With its emphasis on lineage, its crucial cross-reference to horse-racing and a resolution hinging entirely on a bet, this tale is a perfect distillation of the Engelbrecht-Bresges - or, as he is k Such strength of emotion is not, of course, what one associates with racing in Hong Kong. Next Sunday is the last day of the season, and while I imagine plenty of punters will be sorry to see it end, I don't think it's the horses they'll be languishing after all summer. Five years ago, I wrote a piece on the Jockey Club's training school for jockeys at Bea's River, and came away with the strong conviction the lads would gallop around the track on cockroaches if they thought they could earn as much money as former jockey Tony Cruz. Engelbrecht-Bresges nodded and said, 'You cannot take the betting away, but I think horseracing is more than betting, it's how we can get across the beauty of the horse, the aesthetic, the muscles, the elegance of the horse.' I wished him luck and he replied, 'We've changed the procedures a bit - now, after the race, the jockey walks back with the horse. We have to bring the horse closer to the public so they get the feeling of it. You have to get emotion across.' One of the noteworthy facts about Engelbrecht-Bresges is that he came to feel equine emotion relatively late himself, because he was a footballer for the first 26 years of his life - he's now 45. He played in the German National Youth Team, and then for a variety of clubs, who tried to dissuade him from going to university. 'But I saw a lot of the lives of professional soccer players and that was not my dream. For a lot of people, there was no substance.' Instead he went to Cologne University to study economics and business administration. What was he like then? Engelbrecht-Bresges, who has an engaging habit of pursing up his mouth as if to stop himself laughing out loud, smiled and did wheelies with his chair for a moment. 'I always was pretty competitive, I have a real big problem with losing. That's one of my weak sides, I have to work on that. But everything was very easy for me. My biggest setback was my mother dying when I was 23. I had a very special relationship with my mother. And I saw a real change in my father - she had balanced him beautifully. His secretary would ring me at university and say he was going over the top, putting pressure on people.' He met Astrid Bresges while he was still at university. Her father had died two years previously, and her mother was running the family stud-farm. 'Then my mother-in-law got really sick and she asked me for advice. There were 65 people on the payroll and suddenly I saw this was not a hobby.' He immersed himself in his father-in-law's library of breeding books: the equestrian world's combination of chilly business sense, volatile temperament and chance appealed to him. When a foal was born, the stud-manager was instructed to ring Engelbrecht-Bresges, no matter what hour it was, so he could go to the stables and see the next generation for himself. (He told me this glimpse of glistening new life was what he missed in Hong Kong above all.) In 1986, he became the youngest member of the German Jockey Club and by 1989, he was president of Neuss Race Club. Horses had become his life almost accidentally it seems. Not that he is unduly romantic about them: his sister-in-law, Anne Claere Bresges, was kicked in the head by one in 1996, lay in a coma for seven weeks and was told she was permanently paralysed. The doctors were wrong: she is starting to learn to ride again. 'Some horses, like human beings, have not the nicest characters,' says Engelbrecht-Bresges, with a shrug. Of himself now, he says, 'One of my strengths is I'm a good communicator. I can question structures without being offensive. My wife believes I can dismiss somebody and he will leave saying thank you.' As it happens, he did dismiss two department heads - Clinton P. Pitts Junior and Martyn Stewart - at the end of his first year in Hong Kong. Did they thank him? 'I think they understood. They were not happy, but they understood.' For Astrid and their three children - Kai, 12, Clara, nine, and Anna, five - the transition from a German farm with 1,500 trees to Hong Kong has obviously been fraught. ('We had very controversial discussions in the family' is how he puts it.) He works extremely long hours; he no longer has time to go riding; he misses the stud-farm. What keeps him going? 'I'm driven by a mission and by dreams. I'm a perfectionist, I drive people crazy, but the mission and the vision fail if the details aren't right. This club has the resources to make dreams come true.'