Furious French ace calls it quits

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 December, 2008, 12:00am

Saint-Martin says career in HK is over after ban

An irate Eric Saint-Martin declared last night he was finished with Hong Kong racing after stipendiary stewards slammed him with an improper riding charge and a two-month suspension of his licence.

Saint-Martin, 43, had intended retiring from the saddle at the end of the season anyway but has been enjoying a purple patch of form, making yesterday's actions and his subsequent outburst all the more surprising.

Saint-Martin stormed out of Sha Tin at 6.40pm last night after private discussions with stewards' panel member Philip Dingwall, but repeated that he was 'finished' in Hong Kong.

'They have given me two months, they obviously do not want me here,' Saint-Martin said. 'If they don't want me here, I don't need to be here. I am finished - I will be leaving Hong Kong tomorrow. You can put that in the paper - I am leaving.'

Saint-Martin and seven-pound claimer Paul Lo Pak-hin had engaged in a barging match down the back straight in the third event at Sha Tin, the Sai Wan Shan Handicap (1,650m), in which the Frenchman had handled Chater De Lago for trainer David Ferraris.

Lo was steering his mount Storm's Destiny in across Chater De Lago and the interference continued for about 100 metres until Saint-Martin apparently became exasperated and defended himself by pushing Lo out of the way with his elbow.

Lo retaliated by continuing to push an inward course on his mount and eventually raised his right elbow and pushed into the neck of Chater De Lago.

Stewards spent much of the afternoon dealing with the matter but Saint-Martin showed his class, riding a superbly judged race to win the feature event, the Gome Cup (race eight), on topweight Syllabus and completing a double by landing the last for John Moore on Rewarding Star.

Saint-Martin pleaded not guilty to the improper riding charge and argued vigorously against the panel taking action against him, but stewards found he had crossed the line.

'Bearing in mind jockey Saint-Martin's prior record in matters of this kind, he was suspended from riding in races until February 23, with immediate effect,' said chief stipe Jamie Stier.

Lo, who had never previously transgressed beyond normal careless riding infringements, was also charged with improper riding. He pleaded guilty and was suspended for eight meetings.

Last season, Saint-Martin was also suspended on a careless riding charge for deliberately steering his mount into a horse ridden by Terry Wong Chi-wai after the winning post.

When licences were issued for 2008-09 at the end of last season, Saint-Martin was given his with a warning - that a repeat offence could see his situation reviewed. He is understood to have given a verbal commitment to never re-offend.

Saint-Martin has now been suspended four times for improper riding in a Hong Kong career that began in 1982.

His double yesterday took him to 19 wins for the season and equal fourth place on the jockeys' premiership, while his career tally in Hong Kong moved to 424.

Stier showed the patrol footage to the media last night and said that there was no excuse for a jockey taking matters into his own hands and elbowing an errant fellow jockey out of the way.

'We do not accept that he was in danger of being brought down by interference, and the correct course of action should have been to hold his position and leave the punishment [of jockey Lo] to the stewards,' Stier added.