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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent


Happy Year of the Dragon!

Wear new red clobber, don’t wash and back a horse at Scottsville.


Happy new year! Or, rather, gong xi fa cai, which means “congratulations and be prosperous” in both Cantonese and Mandarin. Roughly.

Saturday 10 February is the start of the Chinese lunar new year, the biggest holiday on the Chinese calendar and supposedly a new start for everyone.

It’s the start of the Year of the Dragon, which is associated with lots of luck – welcome news for those of us battered by the vicissitudes of fortune of late.

People born in the Year of the Dragon are meant to be lucky – as well as charismatic, confident and intelligent. These qualities are meant to pervade the world in general during The Dragon’s 12-month reign.

The roots of Chinese animal signs are still debated, but according to one popular legend the Jade Emperor sought animals to guard time’s cycles. A race to the Heavenly Gate came under starter’s orders.

The Horse

Of course, the smart money was on the Horse, especially when you looked at the form of the rest of the field. But, just like some of our nap bets, the Horse finished in midfield.

The Rat got up in the shadow of the post, followed by Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig, in that order.

Dragon people alive today were born in the years 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012 and 2024. They are predicted to have a good year over the next 12 months. However, the fate of us other animals will be dependent on how well we get on with Dragons.

You’ll have to look up your individual zodiac forecast – which, be warned, might vary hugely depending on where you look.

The good news for Snakes, Pigs, Monkeys and Rats is that they get along with the Dragon and should have an OK year. Things will be middling for Rabbits, Goats and Roosters, while Tigers, Dogs, Oxen and, sadly, Horses are likely to face challenges.

El Draque

During the 15-day new year celebration, the Chinese tradition is to gather with family, feast, visit temples and participate in lantern festivals. Most importantly, fire colours of red, orange and gold must be flown to chase off malevolent spirits.

New red clothes are worn, no new shoes are allowed, and cleaning and bathing is forbidden – lest good luck is washed away.

It’s a common notion that the Chinese are avid gamblers – and superstitious with it. Horse racing is not yet allowed on the mainland, but Chinese people elsewhere might well be following the geegees.

Those perusing Scottsville’s Sunday race card will be pleased to see a horse called El Draque running in Race 8.

El Draque, or The Dragon, was the name 16th century Spanish sailors gave British nautical explorer and national hero Sir Francis Drake. In truth, Drake was a bloodthirsty pirate who gave the Spaniards a terrible time, looting and stealing their ships in the world’s southern oceans – hence the nickname.

Drake was so good at breathing fire on the hapless Spanish that he was rumoured to dabble in magic. He is credited with inventing the world’s first alcohol cocktail, a fiery concoction he brewed up off the shore of Havana as a medicinal tincture for sick crew members. A precursor to the modern mojita, with local sugar cane and tree bark ingredients, the drink proved a miracle cure – and was promptly named the El Draque.

El Draque the horse has a decent chance of earning prize money at Scottsville, having won over course and distance and appearing to have a good understanding with promising apprentice jockey James Lihaba.

The young rider will wear silks of predominant orange – so no pesky spirits will get near him.

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