Spectacular scenes on and off at the track – plus a favourable draw!
In the fourth part of a daily diary leading up to the Hong Kong International races on Sunday, Christina Dunlop provides an update on husband Harry’s stable stalwart Robin Of Navan and her own adventures.
I am staying with the other stable staff at the Park Royal Hotel near Sha Tin racecourse which is handy for those early morning stable visits. Harry in turn is staying with the owners as a guest of the HKJC at the Grand Hyatt on Hong Kong Island, a 45mins-1hr shuttle bus journey.
The view from his room on the 19th floor of the harbour was quite spectacular – mine is of the ring-road! To help keep the jet lag at bay Harry and I took the famous Star Ferry across the harbour to mainland China where we ended up walking for miles through narrow streets with street food market sellers on every corner, this felt a little more real than the bright lights and skyscrapers of HK Island.
There was an interesting moment when we needed to consult the map and Harry went to ask a pretty young lady for directions. I think the only directions she might have offered him were to her hotel where you could rent a room for an hour with her! The Ladies market is obviously called that not only because it sells ladies clothes but also offers other extras!
The HKJC certainly do things in style. Last night we were all shipped in to Happy Valley for the International Jockey Championships. What an amazing set up and probably the most valuable real estate plot in the world! If you have a horse that wings round Chester it would love it here. The twisting camber and tight turns made for fast and furious racing.
Stephen Higgins, who I’d last seen at Newbury racecourse, is now Head of Racing Operations at the HKJC and gave us an interesting tour behind the scenes even visiting the Stewards Room. Apparently this is the place that hands out the most expensive fines in the world, somewhere I do not want to visit again in a hurry!
Halfway through the evening there was a fabulous pyrotechnics display announcing all the international jockeys. It didn’t seem to bother any of the horses that were only a few hundred metres away in 150 stables hidden from view behind the stands and 50 more underground in the centre of the track.
All connections from owners, trainers, stable staff & the media were looked after incredibly well with delicious food. The shuttle bus home was down on numbers and this morning did see a few “tired” bodies trying to get themselves rehydrated for the morning’s work!
The majority of the quarantine horses went out on the turf. This caused a logistic headache for quarantine manager Charlie Henson who had to try and co-ordinate everyone’s work plans and not have those on the dirt crashing with those on the turf. Robin of Navan stuck to the dirt and I was delighted with the way he moved.
He warmed up in the large sand arena and did one full lap of the course in a strong canter and pulled up the far side where Colm said he was happily neighing at those galloping on the grass. All normal for him. Today saw the all important Barrier Draw. Peter Deal represented the owners and picked a card. When the sticker went back it revealed number 4. Yes! We were delighted a low draw just off the rails next to the favourite Werther in stall 3. We've still got to get to that start line on Sunday so we're trying not to think too far ahead otherwise the nerves start to flutter!
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