Track feels the strain and can only get worse
Racing fans who were bemused at the line of five leaders in the final race at Sha Tin on Sunday might have to get used to it as we head into that time of the season when it isn't only horses which are feeling the strain.
Sha Tin racecourse is definitely exhibiting some wear and tear scars already and, with the burden of five extra meetings this term, track conditions are going to become something more of an issue unless the climate is particularly kind.
Of course, we have gone from one or two of the dreaded all-weather 'exhibition' meetings - we hate the all-weather and make no apology for that - to three of them this season, no doubt with an eye to track conservation. But that doesn't change the reality that more meetings means more burden on the tracks and Sha Tin is struggling with that burden.
Throughout May, the turf track was showing a stronger tendency towards kick-back in races and it is only getting worse.
On May 16, races all day ran slow final sectional times, yet the winners were not the horses charging home down the centre every race, which should have been the case.
The leaders weren't getting to the line but the run-ons still weren't beating them, with the shifting track and kick-back the reason. The horses behind, getting showered with dirt and clods all the way to the home turn, had already had enough and many didn't have the urge in them to chase down the leaders.
But if it was significant that day then last Sunday's meeting was a significant deterioration of the patient's condition.
Jockeys noted the kick-back in their post-race assessments and, anyway, actions spoke louder than words - that was why we had a line of five jockeys trying to get the front in the last race rather than trying to ride a more standard kind of race.
Even to the eye, Sha Tin appeared to have really felt the racing on Sunday, with a threadbare look to it in the meeting's aftermath.
Fingers crossed that we don't get a rain-sodden fixture as Sha Tin still has an unprecedented eight more of the final 13 meetings to stage before it gets a break.