Punters may have got bad deal with Master Magic

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 1997, 12:00am

Punters who waded into topweight Master Magic on the win pool in the opening race yesterday were entitled to wonder if they were fairly treated when the horse was passed fit to run.

Shortly before the start, racegoers witnessed a display of nerves from the inexperienced griffin who, according to the official stipendiary stewards' report, reared in the stalls. From the stands it was clear he flipped backwards and was eventually taken out of the rear gate.

During the incident Master Magic banged his head and got a cut around his mouth.

The John Moore-trained gelding carried a whopping $9.564 million in win bets and was permitted to take his place in the field following a veterinary examination, according to the report.

The crucial point must surely be that it is not only the physical aspect that matters but also the mental state of the horse after such an experience. This is particularly relevant when dealing with a young horse.

Ultimately, Master Magic finished second but it was only a moderate effort from a horse that had superior form and was confidently expected to win - by trainer, owner, jockey and public who forced him down to 1.4-1 favourite.

Have lessons not been learned from the Excel Kid case when he flipped over backwards going to the start? Seemingly not. Yet this is an era when the integrity of the sport and punters' interests - yes that is punters and not customers - are meant to be paramount.

Champagne corks popped in the inquiry room after the last race yesterday and that's a rare event.

Those on duty had to wait until business was concluded for the day before celebrating with the happy owner of the winner of the first race.

Victor Hui Chun-fui, who owns Diamond And Gold, was a race-day steward yesterday and split the bubbly with his panel colleagues.

The popular Hui also doubles as chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association and would be happy to break out a lot more champagne if the national team beat South Korea in the final World Cup qualifier next month.

Queen Elizabeth II Cup hero London News will be trained by William Haggas and aimed for the Prince of Wales' Stakes at Royal Ascot.

London News has remained in Hong Kong since his superb victory this month and will leave for Newmarket in about two weeks. After lengthy talks between owner Laurie Jaffee, current trainer Alec Laird and jockey Douglas Whyte, it was decided to send the four-year-old to Derby-winning trainer Haggas.

'I am absolutely delighted to be getting a horse of this calibre in my yard. He is obviously a top-class horse and I am sure he will do very well in the UK,' said Haggas.

A key figure in the final decision to send the horse to Haggas was his father-in-law, Lester Piggott, an ardent admirer of London News. When Frankie Dettori had to forego the ride on the horse in the Queen's Plate, Piggott - only half-joking - offered to come out of retirement to ride him.

Fortunately for Whyte, he staked a quick claim and has now carved out a special niche for himself in South African racing history.

The smallest crowd in six years for a Sunday meeting was at Sha Tin yesterday. There were just over 37,000 in attendance, which should worry the Jockey Club.

There were 36,000 on course on December 29, 1991, but it would be fair to suggest a late December day, with Christmas just past, New Year around the corner and the temperatures dropping, is not the ideal date for racing.