Fifth jockey falls foul of riding rule
Chief steward Kim Kelly has denied he has led any extraordinary 'crackdown' in judicial affairs, despite an abrupt end to Mark du Plessis' stint yesterday after he became the fifth jockey punished under the 'reasonable and permissible measures' rule.
For his ride on Fun Heroes in the final race at Sha Tin last Sunday, Du Plessis was handed a seven-day ban and what amounts to three fines of HK$25,000 each in lieu of three further riding days, since there are only eight meetings left and Du Plessis will finish up at tomorrow's meeting.
In the previous 10 seasons, stewards punished 15 rides under rule 99, the various parts of which require jockeys to take all reasonable and permissible measures to win or achieve the best possible placing.
'It is an unusually high number of offences under this rule, but every case is considered on its own merits and I can assure you it isn't part of some particular crackdown,' Kelly said. 'Between last season, my first as chief steward, and this season there has been no change to the judging standards used and I have been comfortable with the level of riding overall. There just happens to have been an increased application of this rule in what has been a busy season for us in many respects.'
Stewards found fault with Zimbabwe-born Du Plessis (pictured) over his riding in the early stages on Fun Heroes, who led for the first time in his career and overraced before wilting to run 11th to Real Specialist.
The report from yesterday's inquiry marked the 'start of the race to the 1,300 metres' as the area of concern, stating that Du Plessis rode the horse 'vigorously' to lead, contrary to its usual pattern and contrary to instructions from trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai to position the horse in midfield. As a result, the stewards concluded Fun Heroes 'was required to run at an unreasonably fast tempo between the start of the race and the 1,200m in or with the lead and then travelling strongly between the 1,200m and the 800m, when continuing to race in or with the lead.'
Du Plessis said he shouldered the blame for the ride and would not appeal the penalty.
'I'm a bit disappointed in myself. I made an error of judgment - I'm human - but I did so thinking I was doing the best thing for the horse,' he said. 'He stumbled out of the gates and Ricky had warned me that prior to his previous win, he had been getting too far out of his races, so I didn't want that to happen and rode him up and then he wouldn't relax.
'It was the first time I rode him in a race but I had ridden him in work and, from how he behaves on the track, you would not think he would take off like that. I have applied to come back next season and I hope I can.'
Adding piquancy to the case was the huge betting support for Real Specialist (backed from HK$36 to HK$17) and the fact that Lau Ip-keung, a part-owner of both Fun Heroes and the winner, gave evidence before yesterday's hearing.
'Mark du Plessis still has his appeal rights, so I don't want to say much about the case that isn't in our report, but I would say that betting support for Real Specialist was not a major factor,' Kelly said.
'Betting is always something we look at as part of our job, naturally, but in this case it was seeing Fun Heroes ridden to the lead, compared to his previous racing tactics, which caught our attention.'
The penalty is in line with other recent cases, with Jeff Lloyd, Terry Wong Chi-wai, Matthew Chadwick and Ben So Tik-hung all receiving bans of between nine and 11 days.