Apprentices' race plan runs badly off course
THE ill-starred scheme to put on races for jockeys who have not ridden more than 250 career winners - largely seen as a benefit for inadequate local riders - has had a further blow dealt to its credibility.
The first race at Happy Valley tomorrow night is one of these restricted events and sees just seven runners going to the post - from an original entry of 19.
Of the seven left in, two will be ridden by visiting Irish apprentices Mickey Fenton and Wayne Smith - unexpected benefactors - while trainers David Hill and Wong Tang-ping will use their own indentured claimers.
The suspension of apprentice Victor C. F. Chan for his ''ill judged'' efforts during the last running of one of these events did nothing to help their image and the lukewarm response to tomorrow night's opener surely illustrates that this was not one of the Jockey Club's better ideas.
At least, however, it does give five apprentices a chance and there will be no quibble with that. Hopefully, a couple of them may make the grade - either here or in Ireland.
The lack of support for this race also highlights the prevailing attitude of the Jockey Club in relation to entries and declarations.
When entries were taken for this meeting - and races divided - there were 13 reserves for a Class Five, 1,650-metre event.
It seems reasonable to suppose declarations for this event yesterday morning would have been sufficient to ensure full fields for two Class Five 1,650-metre events - were races divided at declaration time rather than at the entry stage.
It is a situation that will be repeated ad infinitum until the Jockey Club decides to bring their archaic entry and declaration system into the modern era.
Champion jockey Basil Marcus was decidedly fortunate to escape with not even a reprimand for his riding in the final stages of the opening event at Sha Tin on Saturday.
L'Enjoleur, his winning ride, came from four to five horses out to clearly cross the Alan Munro-ridden Joyful World as that horse was attempting to get past Sea Ruby on the inside.
The head-on film shows Marcus riding vigorously - as is his style - but making little apparent effort to keep L'Enjoleur on a straight course. Munro was checked and Joyful World finished an unlucky third.
That L'Enjoleur was the rightful winner of the race is not in dispute and an objection from Munro would not have altered the result - as he may well have known as no protest was put in.
Given the clear-cut nature of the incident, which was also readily picked up in the course broadcast, there should have been a Stewards' Inquiry. The Stewards waiting for a rider to object - in this type of case - smacks of two wrongs trying to make a right.
Munro should have objected although it would have done him no good. L'Enjoleur deserved to win and it would have been a blatant injustice to place the horse behind Joyful World as would have been the only possible outcome to a successful objection.
But Marcus did deserve a stiff warning, if not worse.
And the betting public, most of whom must have seen the incident, deserved better than the misleading ''L'Enjoleur drifted inwards causing Joyful World (A. Munro) to steady for a stride''.
Last season, now Macau-based Danny Brereton was suspended for three days for careless riding when he shifted out on Latest Trick inside the 200 metres, causing interference to Our Pride who finished fourth.
There was a Stewards' Inquiry, Latest Trick was placed fourth, Our Pride promoted and Brereton rightly penalised.
There are obvious similarities in the two cases although L'Enjoleur shifted in rather than out to cause the interference to Joyful World on Saturday.
And, of course, nothing happened to Basil Marcus.
The Stipendiary Stewards have this season been noticeably diligent in policing use of the whip on horses in front of the saddle, with a number of jockeys fined. French star Gerald Mosse was fined $3,000 for improper use of the whip on Goldchin Champ on January 10 which is the seemingly standard amount for a first offence. On the same day Raymond K.L Tsui was fined $5,000 for a similar offence, his second of the season. But Mosse was given a final warning about his use of the whip on October 2, 1991 - early last season. But a final warning cannot be qualified, it is exactly that - final and without, surely, a time limit. Or are we left to assume that a horse can be belaboured on two or maybe three occasions in every season and the culprit is allowed to start afresh with a clean sheet and a vigorous whip hand when mid-September rolls around? It seems illogical and unsatisfactory.