Testing times for jockeys on Millennium Eve

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 December, 1999, 12:00am

Jockeys Basil Marcus and Eric Legrix have been given official permission to be with their families following the first seven races on New Year's Eve.

But there's a twist - Jockey Club chief stipendiary steward, John Schreck, has informed the jockeys that the Club reserves the right to breathalise them when they return for the Millennium Cup.

Normally, no jockey is permitted to leave the confines of the jockeys' room and weighing room until he has completed his riding engagements and he is then 'signed out' by a steward.

But the Millennium Eve rolls around only once (as far as anyone currently involved in Hong Kong racing is concerned) and Schreck said: 'It is understandable that jockeys and others involved would wish to be with their families on such an occasion.

'Basically, we had no problem with that but those riding in the Millennium Cup, and I am assuming both Marcus and Legrix are, may be asked to take a breath test for alcohol.' Other requests from married riders - there is a full field of 14 for the Millennium Cup - will be sympathetically considered but with the same proviso.

Those of us who live in Happy Valley can see nightly the finishing touches being put to what is obviously going to be an extravaganza the like of which has not been seen previously.

Hong Kong's biggest names, notably Chow Yun-fat and Jackie Chan, will play leading parts as the evening unfolds.

With Happy Valley the centre of the official Millennium celebrations here, the Jockey Club are issuing reminders of what to do and not to do.

For a start, if you have not got a ticket by now, watch it live on television. And if you happen to enjoy being chauffeur-driven, Millennium Eve is not your night. Well, not to the front door of the racecourse anyway.

From the Happy Valley tramstop onwards, Wong Nei Chung Road will be open only to pedestrians.

Still open, however, will be the Jockey Club carpark.

And, in a one-off concession, mobile telephones will be permitted on course.

The decision to hold a meeting on Boxing Day was a success.

There were 36,990 on course at Sha Tin with another 8,788 cross-betting at Happy Valley and total turnover for the 10-race programme was $1.2 billion.

The Jockey Club picked a good year to hold such a meeting as yesterday was Sunday and there is a public holiday again today. It was a lot easier, one assumes, for the man of the family to get out to the races with one more day's holiday ahead for more familial duties.

Not quite sure how well it would have worked, as far as numbers are concerned, if Boxing Day had fallen on a Tuesday and it was back to work the next day.

Nine people out of 10 probably looked at the declarations for yesterday's meeting and assumed that Eric Saint-Martin had returned to France for Christmas.

Wrong. Trainer Peter Ho's retained rider has been working diligently at the track right throughout Christmas week - and even yesterday morning.

Said Ho: 'We had too many horses with very light weights and no logical chance of winning. So it is good for Eric to take it easy.' The white-haired mentor from Perth, also known as Bruce Hutchison, made two appearances in the Inquiry Room yesterday.

The long-serving trainer worked more than his allocated number of horses on the 1,800-metre chute on December 20 and copped a fine of $5,000.

Earlier, he was advised that a repeat performance from My Chief, who tried to take a piece of Dollars And Sense in the seventh race, might lead to action against that horse.

And Freddie Sanchez capped a particularly good day with a fine of $3,000 for disobeying a direction from a Club official.

The French rider, who landed a winning double, had been told to change his cap before mounting Partiking in the seventh but failed to do so. It wouldn't be fair to say the double had gone to his head as the second leg did not arrive until race nine.