New rules could hit Dream Team hard
The dream team of jockey Douglas Whyte and trainer John Size is the midst of another dominant season, but the pair could have their stranglehold loosened after Hong Kong Jockey Club rule makers tightened the limit on how many rides a jockey can have for one stable.
A new policy for the 2012-13 racing season means Whyte will only be allowed to handle 50 per cent of Size's runners, and no more than 40 per cent of his own rides can be from the yard - down from an existing 50 per cent.
A limit of 60 per cent has also been enforced on local jockeys for the first time - with Matthew Chadwick's combination with trainer Tony Cruz most affected - and Chinese riders will now lose their two-pound claim once they reach 250 wins.
Going off this season's statistics, Whyte is the only club jockey who would be in breach of the new mark, with around 45 per cent of his rides supplied by Size this season. The 11-time premiership-winning jockey called the new situation 'not ideal' but was accepting of the decision and ready to 'work things out.'
'I'm a club jockey and I fall under the rules of racing so I'm obligated to do what I'm told to do,' he said.
'I don't enjoy having to worry every month - 'Have I taken too many rides for John?' - I am just a guy that likes to go out there and ride winners. But they're the rules and there's no point getting upset about it or trying to fight it, you've just got to work out the best solution.'
Chadwick and Cruz have been increasingly reliant on each other this season and the frequency of the duo combining will have to be reduced dramatically.
More than 75 per cent of Chadwick's rides have been for Cruz this term, and he has taken just under 60 per cent of the stable's runners.
'Hopefully I'll get a better pick of the rides from Tony and it will give me more opportunities with other trainers,' he said. 'But it certainly is a blow to the amount of rides I can take for Tony and it does affect me more than most.'
Chief steward Kim Kelly played down the significance of the new policy, 'It's not a total sea change,' he said 'We spoke to all of the jockeys and trainers and none of them thought this was unmanageable.'
The loss of the automatic two-pound allowance for non-apprentice locals will only affect two riders immediately - Howard Cheng Yue-tin (369 career wins) and Eddie Lai -Wai-ming (255) - with the pair to be on an even playing field with club jockeys from the beginning of next season.
Alex Lai Hoi-wing (198) and Chadwick (177) seem the most likely freelance riders to reach the mark next and HKJC Executive Director of Racing Bill Nader said he was confident locals would remain competitive once they achieved the milestone.
'If you ride 250 winners as a jockey in an environment as competitive as Hong Kong, then you've proven yourself as a top quality rider,' he said. 'Losing a two-pound claim is a disadvantage, but it is really a very strong compliment to the skills of Howard Cheng and Eddie Lai.'
Nader also announced a significant increase in prize money for next season, particularly for non-group races, with a class one handicap now worth $2,000,000, up $200,000 on last season. 'This is the second successive year that we have raised the season's prize money pool by approximately $40 million,' Nader said.