Yeung's departure highlights need for a rethink on honest mistakes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 July, 2009, 12:00am

We hope the stipes were reading between the lines on Sunday when promising jockey Thomas Yeung Kai-tong threw a bright and potentially lucrative career on the scrapheap and declared his intention to get a business-management degree instead.

Yeung said he had been considering this 'for the past four months or so' and after taking into account the counsel of family members he had decided on the further-education option.

This column suggests it's no small coincidence that four months ago Yeung was suspended for nine meetings for failing to give Packing Winner every possible chance of winning or obtaining the best-possible placing at Sha Tin on February 8.

We spoke out strongly about what was an unfair, inappropriate decision.

Yeung's guilty plea and failure to appeal merely reflected his intrinsically shy personality and the fact the imagined pain of the appeal process seemed as awful to him as the unjust medicine he had already been made to swallow.

In 2006, this column also disagreed with the stewards over their decision to ban Robbie Fradd on an identical charge for an honest mistake on Healthy Fruits.

Call it coincidence, but Fradd didn't think twice when offered a job in Singapore later in the year and a former premiership-winning jockey was lost.

Craig Williams faced two such charges during his time here and another was avoided when he revealed he'd been concealing an injury, and he was penalised under a different rule. The first was simply wrong (Marshall Spirit), but on the third occasion the stewards were right.

However, Williams was then the recipient of behind-the-scenes pressure to leave, based on the three-strikes theory. Wouldn't the Jockey Club love to have Melbourne's three-time champion jockey back now?

The intention of the 'permissible measures' rule was to broaden the net sufficiently to capture dishonest players, making it unnecessary for stewards to prove motive. It was never intended to evolve into an over-the-top punishment for honest mistakes.

So over the summer break, if the Jockey Club can look back at the havoc that's been wrought with the careers of three good jockeys - not to mention the disincentive to others to come and risk their reputation - perhaps they'll realise this rule and its application is ready for review.