Training tracks shut for two hours as dense fog covers Sha Tin
The heaviest fog for more than a decade caused the closure of Sha Tin's training tracks yesterday morning for more than two hours.
Stipendiary steward Martin Knibbs was the man who made the call at 5.15am - 15 minutes after the track initially opened - after consulting senior jockeys and work riders who had handled the first horses to go out.
'The visibility was not good when the first horses went out to exercise at 5am,' Knibbs said. 'So I went out to the middle to talk to the first lot of jockeys as they returned, and to get their opinions. They were all concerned over the safety of riding with the fog so thick.
'So I consulted a number of trainers as well before making the decision to close the track until visibility improved.'
John Ridley, the Jockey Club's manager for racing operations and equestrian, accompanied Knibbs on his journey to the middle.
'There's not a shadow of doubt that Martin's call was the correct one,' Ridley said. 'When a number of senior jockeys tell you it's not safe, you have no option. There's only one decision you can make.'
After consulting the trainers, the barrier trials set down for decision at 7am were postponed until this morning. When the fog began to lift and the light of morning started to break through, Knibbs reopened the main work tracks at 7.30am.
Ridley has been in Hong Kong for 11 years and said it was the first time dense fog had cause the closure of training tracks. 'It's certainly the heaviest fog we've seen in my 11 years here, and a number of the locals who have been around longer couldn't remember the tracks being closed for fog, either.'
Knibbs stressed that safety of rider and horse was the single dominant issue. 'If a horse had thrown a rider in fog that thick, other riders would have very little warning of the presence of a riderless horse,' he said. 'Thank goodness, nothing like that happened and we were able to reopen the track two hours and 15 minutes later in safety.'