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The Implications of ABLE FRIEND and LeBron James’s World No. 1 Title

2015/6/18 — 17:19

ABLE FRIEND unable to defend his reputation at Royal Ascot/Photo Credit: HKJC

ABLE FRIEND unable to defend his reputation at Royal Ascot/Photo Credit: HKJC

       ABLE FRIEND(步步友), the only Hong Kong-based racehorse which was able to rank the world’s no.1, failed to reproduce his Sha Tin top forms in Tuesday’s (16 June 2015) G1 Queen Anne Stakes (a mile) at Royal Ascot. In this high-profile international skirmish, he was crushed by SOLOW, Europe’s emerging champion miler, for the distances of eight and three quarter lengths.

       Such a big defeat not only disappointed his trainer John Moore and his team and the jockey Joao Moreira, but also the public. The 6-year-old Shamardal gelding will most likely lose his title of the world’s best horse permanently. Meanwhile, SOLOW and AMERICAN PHAROAH, the only American ‘Triple Crown’ hero in the recent 37 years, are the favourite contenders of the world’s no. 1 from now on.  

       However, it is unfair to blame ABLE FRIEND too much for his inability to deliver the hoped-for victory. After all, there are so many uncertain factors for a racehorse to maintain his/her top forms in overseas racecourses. Some horses completely unable to adapt to the ‘new’ characteristics of the overseas track(s). The track of G1 Queen Anne Stakes is long straight one involving a series of downhills and uphills, which is completely different with Sha Tin’s right-turn turf. Joao Moreira reported that the uphill of the track was perhaps the main reason for ABLE FRIEND to fail to accelerate in the last 350 metres.

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       In a new environment, moreover, a racehorse’s mood cannot be controlled. ABLE FRIEND always shows his cool, calm and collected demeanor at Sha Tin, but it wasn’t the same case when he debuted at Royal Ascot. He was a little bit more nervous and sweating a little about 5 minutes before the race, which is not a good sign for a racehorse to perform well. Official reporting revealed that the horse appeared relaxed in the pre-race training, but it is questionable that whether being too relaxed is good for a racehorse to prepare for a big race.

       In addition, ABLE FRIEND was perhaps exhausted in the final stage of the season, albeit with his easy sixth consecutive win and fourth at G1 level earlier. The huge time zone difference between Hong Kong and the UK is another possible factor for exacerbating his tiredness.

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       The longer distances away from Hong Kong, the more uncertainties there are. It was noted that SILENT WITNESS, the Tony Cruz’s trained Hong Kong-based thoroughbred horse(retired), created the seventeenth consecutive win record in Sha Tin. Tony Cruz and the horse owners, Arthur Antonio da Silva, Betty da Silva, Antonio Marcus da Silva & Teresa Marie da Silva, decided not to arrange the horse to run overseas because they wanted to adopt a safer strategy so as to break the consecutive win record.

       Sometimes, weather is also an uncertain factor for causing a racehorse’s underperformance in an overseas race, though it seemed not to be the main factor in ABLE FRIEND’s case.

       Nonetheless, SOLOW deserved to win in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes. It is unprofessional to challenge his position of one of the best horses throughout the world, since, it is well-recognised that the G1 Queen Anne Stakes is one of the most competitive one-mile races in the world. The commentators and the public can invite SOLOW to compete with ABLE FRIEND at Sha Tin again in December politely, but it is not a must for SOLOW’s trainer and owner to arrange it. If ABLE FRIEND’s trainer and owners wish to resume his reputation, they should rather arrange him to challenge SOLOW again actively, even though defending the title of ‘Shatin-one-mile-king’ seems to be a more plausible option.

       It is also not surprising that some Hong Kong-based racehorses are overrated. Throughout his career, SILENT WITNESS didn’t prove his ability in either Europe or the US. His only win in overseas was recorded in Nakayama, Japan, which was not an International G1 race. Likewise, ABLE FRIEND lacked any experience to run overseas before he competed at Royal Ascot. By contrast, SOLOW had proved his ability to win in International G1 races in different places (in Dubai and at Longchamp) before. In the highest level race, this nuance is enough to determine who the winner is and who the loser is.

       ABLE FRIEND was not alone for losing his reputation in a crucial battle, ironically, LeBron James, who claimed to be the best basketball player in the world, lost again in the NBA Finals in this Wednesday (17 June 2015).

       There is an old saying, ‘Victory and Defeat are both common in battle’. Nonetheless promoting oneself as the world’s no. 1 in a high-profile manner rashly usually pays huge costs, which was once again shown in the case of ABLE FRIEND and LeBron James. The public can easily forgive one’s faults but not one’s arrogance. ABLE FRIEND is innocent because he cannot claim himself as the world’s no. 1 actively. Yet the marketing strategy of The Hong Kong Jockey Club should be criticised because it somewhat gave a false impression and hope to the ‘irrational’ public.

       By contrast, staying humble is still the key to success. For instance, Zhu Yuanzhang established the Ming Dynasty of China by his strategy of ‘Heighten the Fortification, Fatten a Store of Provision, Laten the King's Coronation’. By the same token, I wonder whether the People’s Republic of China should emphasise her status of Great Power aggressively.

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