Punters lose out despite backing winner

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2007, 12:00am

The Jockey Club's vaunted place at the head of world betting jurisdictions was looking questionable last night after punters who backed dead-heat winner Choice And Chance at Happy Valley were short-changed by an arcane betting rule designed to protect the club.

The 2.5-1 favourite, Silent Dragon, and Choice And Chance at odds of 9.9-1 were inseparable at the finish of the Hyderabad Handicap (1,000m) but that was the only place that things were on a level playing field.

Punters were stunned to see the dividend posted for the latter had been slashed down to almost a quarter of the odds the horse would have paid for an outright win.

With a dividend payout pool of close to HK$12.5 million, almost every jurisdiction in the world would pay out HK$6.25 million to the bettors who supported each of the horses.

However, the bizarre Hong Kong Jockey Club rules dictated a total payout to the backers of Silent Dragon of HK$8.016 million and only HK$4.439 million to Choice And Chance backers.

Thus, Silent Dragon punters got a bumper dividend of $16.50 for every $10 instead of the 'correct' odds of around $12.50, while counterparts on Choice And Chance were treated as second-class citizens and paid $35.50 instead of the correct figure of around $50 for every $10 bet.

Club officials were scrambling to explain the discrepancy, which is out of step with racing the world over but apparently linked to the requirement to pay a minimum dividend of $10.50 and protects the club from having to top up the win dividend pool in the event of a dead-heat involving a long odds-on favourite.

Meanwhile, the virus which struck down nine John Moore-trained racehorses and two of the Jockey Club's lead ponies at Sha Tin last month has been identified as equine herpes virus.

Brian Stewart, the club's head of Veterinary Regulation and International Liaison, yesterday announced results returned by the Animal Health Trust (AHT) in the United Kingdom.

When the club's laboratory and local government authorities were unable to identify the virus which caused a mild fever in those affected and forced the withdrawal of four runners from the February 20 Lunar New Year meeting at Sha Tin, samples were sent to the AHT.

Five of those eleven samples have now tested positive for Equine Herpes Virus (EHV). All horses infected with the virus have now fully recovered.