Allowances for local jockeys should continue

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 November, 2010, 12:00am

Howard Cheng Yue-tin's strong form in recent times has more than one expatriate rider asking whether the time has come for a cap on just how long local jockeys receive an allowance.

Cheng has a career tally of 323 winners now, is up running second in the championship race this season with 16 wins and commanding a big share of serious rides, but he still holds a two-pound allowance in perpetuity.

The introduction of the allowances five years ago was a lifeline for Cheng and other local jockeys, and rightly so. It seems bizarre now but, in the 2004-05 season, Cheng managed seven winners and was still only 10 behind the leading local, Alex Lai Hoi-wing, then an apprentice.

And the allowances should continue because we would hate to see things back to the way they were - the local jockeys simply frozen out of their own racing scene - yet the question of when a rider can stand on his own feet must be dealt with.

Cheng is clearly able to hold his own now, with or without two pounds. Eddie Lai Wai-ming is also an experienced jockey with 234 wins and Alex Lai - now an international Group One winner - is rapidly closing on him with 168 local victories.

Should they, in fairness, continue to claim a weight allowance which, in the present landscape, they would hold even if they have had 500 winners?

The local riders were largely unwanted by owners and trainers until the Jockey Club gave them all allowances, tiered according to achievements, though the issue is whether that changed their results as much as it changed the perceptions of owners and trainers. The allowance may have helped them get worthwhile rides more than it decided actual finishes.

What can't be known for sure until change happens is whether setting a ceiling and removing the allowance after, say, 200 wins will again swing perception away from them and see them passed over for good rides by the same people who swung their direction when the system was introduced in 2005-06.