Jockeys urged to speak out if approached by outsiders
Hong Kong jockeys, a crucial part of the multi-billion dollar racing industry here, were yesterday urged to seek help from the Jockey Club if they felt they were under pressure to break the rules.
The advice was handed out by director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges at the regular pre-season briefing, which followed 24 hours after a similar meeting with licensed trainers.
Illegal betting, Macau-based bookmakers and inconsistent running of horses have all figured largely in Jockey Club concerns about the integrity of racing - and in particular where jockeys are concerned.
The standing of Hong Kong racing has not been helped by various Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) swoops, which have seen some local jockeys jailed.
Jockeys were reminded strongly of integrity and the importance of maintaining Hong Kong's reputation and the confidence of punters.
'If any of you feel that you are under undue pressure to perform anything that is irregular, I would urge you to tell us,' said Engelbrecht-Bresges, who also underlined the importance of appropriate behaviour both on and off the course.
Any rider who might decide to enjoy a heavy night out or have a 'hair of the dog' on raceday morning - not likely, it must be said - will be in trouble as the Jockey Club will tighten further the guidelines of alcohol to bring it into line with recent government amendments.
Jockey Club concerns about off-the-track behaviour from jockeys centres round the company they keep and frequenting of certain nightspots.
Safety on the track was also of paramount importance and jockeys were advised that they should maintain a safety distance of two lengths before crossing another runner in a race.
A clear-cut whip policy has also been introduced for the new season, which does not affect the current stewards' instruction in relation to using the whip to excess or in an improper manner.
But it does set out improper whip behaviour, which includes using the whip forward of the horse's shoulder or in the vicinity of its head; when a horse is out of contention or is showing no response to the whip.
Jockeys will also be in line for punishment if they continue to use the whip when a horse is clearly winning or when it has passed the winning post.
It is a further tightening of the guidelines as some of the whip actions listed above have, in the past, been punished from time to time.
With the Jockey Club avowing that punctuality is paramount, jockeys were advised that they must arrive in the parade ring on time - which may have repercussions as a couple of well-known riders don't exactly leg it to the paddock.
Apprentice jockeys were advised that stewards may suspend or terminate indentures at any time.