Bumper year for bans
Eric Saint-Martin's fifth careless-riding suspension of the season last Saturday was a reminder that, in whatever other way this season ends up being notable, it will almost certainly be a benchmark year for riding bans.
Have things become even more competitive out on the track?
To date, the stipes have handed out 25 careless-riding bans - the various misconducts and other infringements not included - for HK$625,000 in fines and 53 riding days lost.
In 2004-05 those figures were 46 days and $505,000 by December 1, rising to 54 separate bans, 119 days and $1.76 million by season's end.
In 2005-06, again to the start of December - and we aren't there yet in the current term - there were 37 days handed out and $295,000 collected in fines and by the end of term that scoreboard read 124 days and $1.47 million in fines.
Last year, it was 38 days and $280,000, but by July 3 it was 66 infringements for 151 days and $1.4 million in fines - incidentally only two of those days were booked to Saint-Martin.
So, careless-riding penalties are ahead of schedule, based on the past couple of years, and by a considerable margin. Scary when you consider the rate of acceleration once we get right into the season after the three-month softening up period to December. We could well be looking at 200 riding days lost and the money figure doesn't bear thinking about.
The other scary part is that, with the exception of one Douglas Whyte careless-riding ban we found a touch difficult to accept at this column, it would have been difficult for the stipes not to have taken the action they did in most of these cases.
Something has certainly changed.