Hiccups question simulcasts' worth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 12:00am

There is little doubt the Jockey Club must be wondering at the benefits of simulcasting overseas events, regardless of a possible connection to the International races in Hong Kong. Saturday's Cox Plate from Australia was a good reason to take a closer, and most likely negative, look at the simulcasting situation under which SAR punters are betting on races outside the control of the Hong Kong administration.

Following on the debacle over bracketed runners finishing in the quinella of the Yasuda Kinen and the English Derby protest that kept Hong Kong punters waiting until 11.30pm for a payout, Saturday's events continued the failure of simulcasts to run smoothly.

The Cox Plate held only $20 million in bets but managed to stall the Happy Valley meeting by 20 minutes when the second race had to be put back. Players who were not interested in the race from Melbourne - and the turnover level suggested there were many - had an 80-minute wait between Hong Kong races.

It might not have seemed so to people in Hong Kong, but the Cox Plate triple protest was wound up reasonably quickly considering the nature of the race, the number of objections and the opportunities permitted for the owner, trainer and jockey to argue their position in Australian protest hearings.

With three horses involved, that could have meant nine speakers in addition to the viewing of the film evidence (although the owners of Viscount offered a time saving, as the Ingham brothers rarely, if ever, attend protest hearings).

Had the objections continued longer, there could have been considerable confusion here as the so-called third race of the day would have been run without dividends declared for the Cox Plate, and the roll-on from that would have been a delay in dividends for the local race.

While the Club's attempt to beef up interest in the lead-up performances of International race runners is a worthy one, the turn-off factor for local punters must get priority when deciding the future of these events.

The irony of giving the Cox Plate such a prominent display is that Northerly is unlikely to come to Hong Kong and Sunline's next move is uncertain. Only Silvano's fourth place will have definite relevance and that was clouded by the slightly soft going and a minor injury.

Simulcasts with betting are a nice idea, but is the headache worth the benefit? It might be just easier to show the telecast.