Punishment only for the innocents
THE race-horse Diamond Coast was disqualified by the Race-meeting Stewards after winning the seventh race on May 21, 1994 for weighing-in light by 0.2 lb outside the allowable limit set by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club.
In the Stewards' Report, it was clearly stated that the Stewards were unable to ascertain how the weight difference arose, but being satisfied on the evidence before them that there was no dishonest intent took no further action except for disqualifying the winner.
If malpractice was discovered, the horse should obviously be disqualified and whoever was responsible for the wrongdoing has to be punished. But in this case, despite the fact that the Stewards were unable to ascertain what actually went wrong and none was held responsible for such discrepancy, the totally innocent owner and those who backed the winner were heavily penalised.
The Jockey Club responded by saying that there was no discretion available to the Race-meeting Stewards but to disqualify the horse under Rule 141 (iii) which reads as follows: ''If a rider cannot draw the correct weight the Clerk of the Scales shall allow him 1 lb. If he cannot then draw the weight his horse shall on an objection under Rule 150(iii) be disqualified and the rider may be punished.'' What is not clear however is when the horse was disqualified under the said Rules, whether the Race-meeting Stewards have any discretion to determine on a refund of the bets on the horse to protect the interests of the betting public under such circumstances.
The Jockey Club defended the Stewards' action by saying that the implications from this incident were unforeseen but I say that these implications should have been well foreseen by the Jockey Club after a similar incident which occurred in 1989.
There is no excuse for the Jockey Club to allow such loopholes in the Rules of Racing, no matter how rare are these occurrence.
THOMAS KWOK North Point