The Hong Kong Jockey Club reports that on the opening day of the 2006/7 racing season almost 40,000 race fans turned out at Shatin to welcome back Hong Kong’s most popular sport after the summer break.
Before racing began those present in the parade ring enjoyed the season-opening ceremony officiated by HKSAR Chief Executive, the Honourable Mr Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Chairman, Mr John C C Chan.
As is tradition, the HKSAR Chief Executive officially declared the season underway by striking a ceremonial gong.
South-African jockey Robbie Fradd piloted Town Of Fionn to win the HK$1.6m Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup, the day’s feature event, with a matchless finishing burst down the centre of the track. The pair made up about six lengths of the tiring leaders to score drawing clear by one and three-quarter lengths.
“I’m best when fresh!” quipped Fradd, returning to the weighing room after his first ride of the season.
Fradd wasn’t the only South African name to feature. Felix Coetzee won the 2nd race (a HK$450,000 Class 5 Handicap over 1200m) on Star Prodigy, with Douglas Whyte on the second placegetter; Douglas returning to win the 6th (the 1400m HK$570,000 Class 4 Handicap) on Fat Dragon
Former champion HK jockey and now SA trainer Basil Marcus was also in Hong Kong for the opening meeting and was spotted signing numerous autographs for delighted fans at various points around the course.
In recent decades South Africa has proven a fertile ground for the development of exceptional riders who have graduated to the rigours of Hong Kong racing - considered by many as one of the most competitive racing circuits in the world. Famous names include Bartie Leisher (champion Hong Kong jockey before a near-fatal riding accident), Basil Marcus, Douglas Whyte, Robbie Fradd, Johnny Geroudis, Anthony Delpech and Felix Coetzee.
Speaking of Hong Kong, the HKJC is sporting a new-look website for the new season. Always at the cutting edge of Web development the new site is (if possible) even better than the previous one and in addition to detailed information on the horses, race reports and results, trainer and jockey files etc, it provides fans with a range of multimedia products including full race replays, a virtual tour of the race tracks and parade ring, extensive photo gallery, trackwork videos, current odds etc.