Derby dash back-up plans boost Club's confidence
The Jockey Club has tried to cover all bases for the Dubai to Derby Dash this weekend. Seven jockeys who will ride in Dubai are also engaged for rides at Sha Tin and will be aboard the Jockey Club's special charter flight returning after racing to enable them to ride in Hong Kong on Sunday and Executive Director of Racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has a contingency plan for all conceivable problems.
'Obviously, we would prefer to focus on the Derby Day racing, as we don't expect any problems with getting the riders back in time for our special opening ceremony at 12.15pm,' he said. Racing itself will begin at 1pm.
The riders involved are Michael Kinane (who rides Idol in the Derby), Greg Childs (Citizen Kane), Olivier Peslier (Glyndebourne), Epic Express (Robbie Fradd), John Murtagh (Charming City), Gerald Mosse (Industrial Pioneer) and Craig Williams.
The trek back to Sha Tin Derby Day begins with the engagement in Dubai of a car and two coaches to run between Nad Al Sheba racecourse and the airport in Dubai, where the riders will have been checked in before arrival.
An official team from the Jockey Club, made up of staff members experienced in dealing with the travel associated with the Hong Kong International races, will be in Dubai to ensure that the transit goes smoothly.
'The charter flight is due to leave Dubai at 11.30pm and we will be getting progress reports before take-off and also every two hours during the flight, so we will be forewarned of any potential difficulty,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said last night. 'We are very optimistic that there will be no delays but it is sensible to have plans, just in case.'
At the Hong Kong end, there will be two coaches to carry the jockeys to Sha Tin. 'We expect to use the buses at this end. However, there will be a helicopter on standby in case we are tight for time,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
For a worst-case scenario, with a delay of an hour or two, the Jockey Club will today ask trainers to declare back-up riders.
Standby jockeys will be taken for horses in the 'first three or four races' in the event of the booked riders being unable to reach Sha Tin in time to race in those earlier events.
'I am sure we will have sufficient riders to carry on - and there is no plan to call the meeting off!' the director of racing smiled wryly. 'We are hopeful that the jockeys can enjoy a successful meeting in Dubai, which can be a wonderful advertisement for our Hong Kong racing, then return without a concern to ride at what looks to be one of the best possible Derby meetings.'
The Derby draw will be conducted today just after noon at the Jockey Club offices.