Wagging tongues worse than fine

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 12:00am


Zac Purton's HK$300,000 fine yesterday has far less potential to hurt him than the game of innuendo that will already have begun over his failing to report an approach by Cosma Fung Hok-cheung to bet for him.

Fung was introduced to this writer some years ago by a jockey, not 20 metres from where the horses were parading for the last race at Happy Valley one night. Not sure what the jockey was thinking, given what has emerged about Fung since.

His jailing for 21 months in October 2007, over having a tip-bet arrangement with Chris Munce received far less publicity than did Munce's imprisonment for a similar arrangement with Dinesh Kumar Daswani.

By that time, Munce had been in prison for more than seven months and an unemployed 47-year-old punter like Fung was not exactly A-list.

But, having done his time, Fung obviously thought that what had worked before would work again with Purton and who knows how many other jockeys he would have approached.

And he surely would not be the only one making approaches.

Jockeys all over the world, at the smallest tracks racing for the lowest prizes all the way up to the big time, are approached constantly. Some accept the offer, some don't. That's business.

A jockey riding in Hong Kong 20 years ago - not a great judge of a bet - told me that no matter how many losers he tipped to punters who offered to do business, there were twice as many waiting in line the next day.

They couldn't be burned. They sprouted like mushrooms after rain, multiplied like poor relatives after you've won the lottery.

Those were the old days and we would question whether they are quite as thick on the ground now, but jockeys are still constantly approached with offers like those that Purton refused from Fung. Probably any jockey would argue that if they spent their time going to secret inquiries to report every offer they received, or every unwanted meeting with undesirables that they were tricked into, they might not do much else.

There's a strong case Purton should have reported what happened, especially given Fung's past, and maybe the HK$300,000 fine is fair enough for being dumb - on the current careless riding scale, for example, that's probably less than eight days for a top jockey.

Still there is a part of you that feels a bit sorry for him, given the nature of the offence - merely failing to report it.

Chief stipe Kim Kelly's press release on the matter yesterday specifically stated that the stewards believed Purton had refused Fung's offers, was innocent of having had any such tips-for-bets arrangement with him or anyone else and they were satisfied by written evidence the jockey tendered that money he had loaned to Fung's brother, Peter, had been for a legitimate, non-racing business venture in Australia.

Those are the things which would have been of real concern and Purton emerged with a clean sheet but those won't be the parts of yesterday's press release which will attract the greatest focus or put the most imaginations to work.