Rogue acts like 'pussycat' but ban still stands
Barrier rogue Northern Gold Ball trialled 'like a pussycat' at Sha Tin yesterday, but his future remains in the balance. The four-year-old has been a consistent problem at the starting gates, culminating in his latest rodeo act at Sha Tin on May 20 when he left jockey Douglas Whyte in the gates and the Hong Kong Jockey Club was forced to return $44 million in bets.
But trainer Wong Tang-ping, who has been asked to show cause why the horse's entries should not be refused, and jockey Tony Culhane reported he was on his best behaviour yesterday.
'So far, so good, but we have to satisfy everyone 100 per cent,' said Ping after Northern Gold Ball was third in the only trial of the session, although his finishing position was of no account, only his conduct. 'He wasn't emotional or irritated, but we have to be perfect. If we don't get it right then the starter is not satisfied, the stewards are not satisfied, the Club is not satisfied, and I would not be satisfied.'
The horse was not ordered to trial - his nomination for any race is being refused due to his troublesome and costly antics and his racing days in Hong Kong may already be over. However, the Jockey Club's Racing Committee will consider the case further at its meeting tomorrow and connections will be hoping that yesterday's good report card will assist their efforts to have the ban lifted.
'He was fine - a pussycat really,' said Culhane. 'I haven't ridden him before, but I have obviously seen him. He gets a bit excited, a bit tense, but he was fine today. A gentleman.'
Culhane had no concerns about the horse as a jockey hazard. 'I can't see there being a problem with him,' he said. 'He went into the gates fine. He came out of the gates fine. I wouldn't regard him as dangerous.'
Ping said his understanding was that starter Philip Waldron would like to see Northern Gold Ball trial correctly a second time before giving him a more positive report.
'He played up a little bit today but not much. He didn't break the gates or rear back. The jockey was satisfied, so at least we are happy about how he is today,' Ping said. 'I will have to consult with the stipes and the starter to see how many trials he will need to have. There may be trials again on Friday and if I can trial him there I will.'
Those trials scheduled for Sha Tin on Friday might be in some doubt if the torrential rain continues.
Chief stipendiary steward John Schreck said he understood Northern Gold Ball trialled well enough but pointed out it did not serve any official purpose. 'I suppose that was to try to settle him down, and that is the prerogative of the connections, but it was not for reinstatement purposes,' Schreck said. 'I have discussed the trial briefly with Philip Waldron, who said that it was satisfactory.'
Culhane, meanwhile, has decided to return to a full riding commitment in Britain during the summer break and has three rides at the four-day Royal Ascot fixture, which opens on Tuesday.
'I always have a couple of rides at Royal Ascot, it's nothing unusual but I am looking forward to it,' he said. 'I think I've ridden three winners there. Usually, if there were northern runners going to Ascot then I would quite often be asked to ride some of them.'
Culhane returns home after Sunday's Sha Tin meeting and will ride at Thirsk on Tuesday at the start of a solid schedule. 'I wasn't sure before but I've decided to go back and ride full-time during the break, and kick a few home before I return for the new term here,' he said.