Club will need good planning with griffins

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2011, 12:00am

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Sunday's cancellation of the first scheduled griffin race of this season has to beg the question whether griffin racing will have a place at all in the near future.

It isn't long ago that the griffin events began in January, even before the New Year not so much longer before that, and the youngsters were able to make a start on some sort of a career well before the end of the season.

Almost uniquely a Hong Kong-style of race due to its cross-over of northern and southern hemisphere sources, griffin racing virtually takes the place of two-year-old racing elsewhere.

And, like two-year-old racing, it has its critics and supporters, its talented and not-so-talented performers - equine and human - but it has nevertheless unearthed some great talents in the past.

We wrote in this space earlier in the season about the shift of the International Sale from international week to Derby eve - question to Jockey Club: why is it still called the International Sale when it no longer has any international connection? - will be the final nail in the griffin if the club has no will to continue these races.

Young horses going through the sale ring in the back half of March are not going to be ready to race for a little while after that, even if they are reasonably forward for the sale itself.

Small fields resulting in low turnover and very short-priced favourites and frequent upsets have characterised griffin racing and branded it an unnecessary evil at Sports Road.

Whether turnover is the only measure of the health of racing is open to debate, since the sources of growth in recent seasons appear to be a mix of rebates, general economic positives and an apparent leakage from illegal avenues from outside of Hong Kong rather than some particular genius in programming.

But, clutching their spiralling turnover as Gollum held the one 'precious' ring in J.R. Tolkien's story, it seems club officials are only too happy to wave griffin races goodbye forever. (And, it must be said, any anti-Jockey Club elements looking to throw adjectives at it like greedy were handed a ready projectile with the substitution of a full-field Class Five on the weekend for the cancelled griffin event.)

The only way it might be rescued is for the club to issue specific permits to channel horses into these races, but we don't see that happening, and it won't be too long before the only option for late season two-year-olds is to be tossed in against the older horses in Class Four right from the get-go.