Dettori joins idols in Happy Valley frenzy

The Guns blazed over Happy Valley last night; the darkness removed by an electric storm of flash bulbs. The senses told you that something different was happening in the former colony.

The Guns blazed over Happy Valley last night; the darkness removed by an electric storm of flash bulbs. The senses told you that something different was happening in the former colony.

They have raced in this enclave for over 150 years, but this weekend Hong Kong seriously shoulders its way into global racing for the first time. On Sunday Sha Tin, the course on the mainland New Territories, hosts the International series of races. This consists of four contests bearing £2.5m in prize-money, including the Hong Kong Cup, afforded, for the first time, Group One status.

Last night was the opening ceremony at Happy Valley, the original racecourse on Hong Kong Island. It was a fusion of East meeting West, neon blending with sport and, in such circumstances, it was appropriate that the International Jockeys' Challenge should be won by Frankie Dettori.

Dettori has done as much for racing, and himself, as anyone in the 1990s and, as the millennium closes, past misdemeanours have been forgotten in these parts. The memory of the minor drugs offence which once prevented his access to Hong Kong has long since been swept under the carpet.

The high that mattered last night was the altitude of his dismount. The audience warmed to Dettori's celebrations alongside his vanquished opponents, Olivier Peslier and Kieren Fallon. Indeed, from the moment a fusillade announced proceedings, the jockeys' every moment was followed by lenses.

Fallon struck in the first leg aboard Success Magic, Dettori was on target in the third and final leg on Prodigy, with Peslier taking the race in between. But it was Dettori, who had to survive an objection against his winner, that took the championship by registering more points from his beaten horses.

Fallon has a contract to ride in Hong Kong this winter and his experience of the track was underlined when he landed a treble on the night, his other wins coming with Braveheart and Commander Charlie.

There seemed little professional antagonism between the combatants, but it is, of course, not difficult to be on good terms with yourself when you are a small athlete here. For invited riders this is the new Klondike. Jockeys are feted in this territory like no other. If there is one seat in a top restaurant remaining it will go to a jockey in preference to a movie star.

Riders here can make themselves, and others, a lot of money. "You can earn more in one winter in Hong Kong than you can in five or six years in England," Fallon says. And he is our champion jockey.

If money makes the world go round then this little realm spins with centrifugal force. There is probably no betting shop in Britain which has not been frequented by a Chinese punter and this is not a habit they pick up on their travels.

The serious players have not strayed, though, and they ensure that the Hong Kong Jockey Club is an enormously successful organisation.

Bookmaking is illegal here and the pari-mutuel set-up is enough to make Tote proponents elsewhere weep. There is pool betting on course at Happy Valley and Sha Tin, telephone accounts, 125 off-course betting branches and 82,000 Customer Input Terminals (CITS), hand-held betting devices that are used in conjunction with mobile phones.

The turnover generated is fabulous. The HKJC is a non-profit-making organisation. Last year they donated over HK$1bn (over £80m) to charity. This makes it the largest charity donor in Hong Kong and one of the biggest in the world.

The most popular bet is the Quinella (a dual forecast) and the most speculative the Triple Trio - the conundrum of providing the first, second and third in any order in three designated races. It's not easy, but at least you don't have to work again. Last year two punters got it to a HK$5 bet (60p) and collected about £6m each. It must have been a struggle to get it home.

This is a strange environment even for some of our more bloated participants, so heaven knows what it means to the travelling artisans. It is a warm sensation to be in the company of men of the North like Eric Alston and David Nicholls. Both are represented in the sprint - a race for Orient Expresses - by Tedburrow and Rudi's Pet respectively.

There is, however, an acclimatisation problem in the Tedburrow camp. The seven-year- old travelled over most satisfactorily but his trainer was confined to quarters for 48 hours with jet lag. Rehabilitation, though, has almost been completed and there would be no greater sight than Alston doffing his trademark feathered hat on Sunday in front of the popping bulbs.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice