Wong looks set to beat horse-doping charge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2003, 12:00am

Alex Wong Siu-tan yesterday took a giant leap toward clearing his name of a drug-related charge imposed against him earlier this year, which resulted in a record $150,000 fine.

He gave evidence before a panel of stipendiary stewards yesterday. But he must now wait for the official ruling from the board of stewards of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. However, it is a racing certainty that his conviction will be erased and his fine refunded later this month.

The hearing at Happy Valley was also a small but significant step forward in a broader sense for Wong, who has a 'show cause' hearing hanging over his head, with the Jockey Club's licensing committee having questioned the quality of his stable management and his right to continue training in Hong Kong.

Wong's case, as well as the higher-profile Isosorbide case involving fellow trainer Ivan Allan, have spurred the Jockey Club to launch a far-reaching inquiry, the scope of which will include laboratory practices, veterinary protocols and even the wording of the current rules regarding prohibited substances and trainers' responsibility.

In the wake of last month's revelations in the Allan case - that the same mystery substance Isosorbide had been discovered in an anti-fungal shampoo that is standard Jockey Club issue - Wong successfully applied to have his Isosorbide case reopened. At yesterday's hearing, Wong presented credible evidence of his staff having treated the horse Winmark with the shampoo product Imaverol in the lead-up to his engagement at Happy Valley on December 7, and of having ordered it through the Jockey Club's vets.

The stipendiary stewards have the power to level charges and penalties against licensed persons but they don't have the authority to remove them. That authority rests strictly with the full board of club stewards.

'What we must do now is take the transcript of today's proceedings, have it typed up and forwarded to all the stewards, together with our recommendations,' executive director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said yesterday. 'It is not appropriate for us to say publicly at this time what those recommendations will be.'

Outside the hearing, Wong said he believed his evidence had been accepted in its entirety. 'I'm very, very happy,' Wong said. 'This has been a difficult time and it did hit me quite badly. I have also lost a number of good horses. But that's life, you never look back - just look forward.'

The Lindsay Park stable of Hong Kong-based trainer David Hayes will saddle up the ante-post favourite in Saturday's Queensland Derby in Australia after a last-minute resolution to an ownership dispute.

Formerly owned and trained in New Zealand, Bob's Boy was the subject of legal action after Hayes' agent, Mark Pilkington, believed the three-year-old had been bought for Hayes' Hong Kong operation prior to establishing himself as Derby favourite in winning the Rough Habit Plate last Saturday week.

Hayes last week said that he would take out an injunction in the Australian courts to prevent Bob's Boy running in the Group One Derby or any other race until the dispute was settled, but that has proved unnecessary.