Onus on Yim to learn from lost ride

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 12:00am

Simon Yim Hin-keung's Derby dream is in tatters after missing out on Precision this Sunday, but at least his career is still in one piece. When Yim was hit with a 10-meeting penalty in January, the Jockey Club's director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, suggested the Club would look at Yim's future licensing if he continued to attract careless riding bans. Saturday's fresh ban at his third meeting back can hardly have helped.

Some Hong Kong racing people, including at least one former champion jockey, felt Engelbrecht-Bresges' comment was harsh and uncalled for. In the Chinese media, there is a strong view that Yim has been a victim of bias while expatriate jockeys go unpenalised for breaches of the rules. Dwayne Dunn's negligence of the advance marker pole recently on Songs Of The Sun has been a hot enough topic that the stewards felt the need to show official film of the incident to the media following last Saturday's racing.

There is no doubt under the rules that Dunn was eligible for penalty and should count himself lucky to have kept the race and his licence. The rule states that 'any jockey who breaks before reaching the marker pole will be subject to disciplinary action even if no interference is caused'.

But, in the opinion of the stewards, Dunn was clear and his act did not constitute carelessness even though it was a breach. Ironically, Yim's absence through suspension might have played its part in saving Dunn, as the Club was close to being understaffed for senior riders. In those circumstances, a rider might sometimes be reprimanded rather than suspended for an offence which did not involve danger to fellow riders. Any careless riding judgment has a subjective aspect, but it cannot be said that Yim has not been given more benefit than doubt by the stewards. That a talented young rider like Yim should be in danger of losing his licence in his native land is indeed harsh, but his toughest critics right now are not Club officials but fellow jockeys.

He is not totally alone in this. There has also been recent ill-feeling amongst rivals over a potentially dangerous aspect of one high-profile expatriate jockey's style. The difference, say the jockeys, is that a few well-chosen and unprintable words from some of his counterparts have cooled the potential 'situation' but the same off-the-record discussions with Yim have not.

Jockeys, more than the stewards, respect the fine line between competitive and careless riding. While interference is not palatable to a jockey, all appreciate that it happens and that the desire to win sometimes outweighs care. They accept and understand it, but lately theirs have not been the sympathetic voices that might normally be expected.

Behind the scenes, the Jockey Club is looking at more discussions with Yim, more counselling and guidance. Good, homegrown jockeys do not emerge easily in a forest of concrete and asphalt like Hong Kong. It would be tragic to lose a genuinely nice guy and riding talent like Simon Yim, but the matter is in his own hands.

The loss of the Precision mount may or may not turn out to be a sad experience on Derby Day, but there will be other Derbies yet as long as he can come to terms with what has cost him this chance.