Stipes busier than ever
Drug rules stood out in 2006-07, but matters of regulation were dominated this season by suspensions and fines for jockeys. The stipes were busier than a one-armed, one-legged wallpaper hanger.
On the careless riding front, things were headed for crazy places until late in the season, when stewards either softened their stance or the riders theirs, but 74 separate charges were still successfully brought, with 171 days lost and fines totalling HK$2.237 million. By way of comparison, 2006-07 saw 66 careless riding suspensions, 151 days lost and HK$1.4 million in fines. Of the jockeys who rode the entire season, only Gerald Mosse escaped a careless riding ban.
Douglas Whyte led the fines, handing over HK$420,000 in addition to losing 13 meetings through suspension.
Eric Saint-Martin sat out 24 meetings, 14 for careless riding and a 10-meeting improper riding ban for clouting another rider with his horse. It was the third improper riding charge of the Frenchman's Hong Kong career and brought a grave warning about the consequences if there's ever another.
Stewards were busy, even without careless riding. Other penalties totalled 57 days and HK$157,000, with the season notable for two charges of failing to take reasonable and permissible measures (Anthony Delpech and Mosse totalling 18 days), and seven instances of not riding horses out, totalling 21 days and HK$60,000 (the most notable being 10 days for Shane Dye on Sohna at Happy Valley). And there was Saint-Martin's improper riding ban, three misconducts and a jockey even fined over a lead bag.
There were several objections that were tinged with controversy but none that could be labelled wrong, while the toughest was handled correctly under pressure when hometown hero Viva Pataca was denied the Hong Kong Cup, despite what legions of fans and one very powerful casino magnate might have been willing.
However, Dye's controversial display in failing to take an open gap on Nirvana at Sha Tin in November was the low point in 'the room' - the rider failed to earn any penalty, but Nirvana's next-start win after being backed from double figure odds into 7-2 will not be remembered by chief stipendiary steward Jamie Stier's panel with any relish.