Club forced to 'rival' Sevens finals

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am

Racing director Bill Nader has issued a plea to reshape simulcast rules, with the Jockey Club forced to apply to move its March 27 race day into a head-on clash with finals day at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

'We see ourselves as a sport and try to co-exist with other sporting events,' Nader (pictured) said yesterday. 'There probably aren't too many of them over a year which are in our league, but the Sevens is one.

'It isn't ideal, but we've applied to move the races to March 28, the day of the Sevens finals. I don't think it would impact on our day - if anything, Sundays are better turnover days for us anyway - but it won't be good for the rugby and we would prefer to work in with that event.'

It would not be the first clash, as the Jockey Club raced on Sevens finals day two years ago.

Nader said the club had been backed into a corner over the Sevens weekend due to the time slot for simulcasting races from the Dubai World Cup meeting, which will have multiple Hong Kong runners, on the night of March 27 and the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in Japan, featuring champion sprinter Sacred Kingdom, on the following afternoon.

The problem has grown out of complicated rules that split overseas simulcasts into two categories - raceday and non-raceday - when the government approved an extra 15 simulcast days last year.

Previously, the club was permitted to operate betting on 10 overseas races per season, but they had to coincide with local race days. Approval was granted last year for a further 15 non-raceday simulcasts per season, which can involve multiple races, but the restriction of 10 overseas races on a racing day remains.

'Originally, we were going to race on Saturday and simulcast four races from Dubai, which would have fallen on early Sunday morning due to the time difference,' Nader explained. 'That would have allowed us to begin and end everything on Sunday, with both Japan and Dubai falling into the category of a single non-raceday simulcast.'

But one of the arguments pitched to the Home Affairs Bureau in applying for the extra days last year was that, with more and more Hong Kong-based horses travelling to major events, the club wanted to allow fans here to follow those events.

'Everything was okay until it became clear that Joy And Fun was going to the Alquoz Sprint in Dubai, which will be run at 9.20pm on the Saturday, our time,' he said.

'That meant we were bound by that argument to present the race but it falls outside the non-raceday category and we would have exhausted our 10 raceday simulcast races.'

The New Zealand Derby tomorrow will be the sixth for the season and the slots are filled for the remainder, including the regular annual Hong Kong participation in two races at the big Singapore meeting in May and Japan's Yasuda Kinen in June.

The separate categories were structured to restrict the club's ability to operate without limit on as many overseas races as it might choose, which Nader concedes but he believes there is a simple solution.

'If that is the concern, then why couldn't we just have 25 simulcast days allowable, all under the one heading, and the government simply place a cap on the total number of simulcast races per season?' Nader asked.

'It's pretty difficult to understand even for the people involved and we don't want this clash, but something had to give if we were to do what we believe our customers want.'

Approval for the change of date has not yet been granted.