Leung and Shahjee made headlines
Drugs arose in the sport again, with recreational ketamine use a growing concern that emerged in the riding, racing and equine care sides of Hong Kong racing.
There were minor drug-related incidents: Francis Lui Kin-wah fined HK$75,000 over the hydroxyomeprazole, a drug used in ulcer treatment, detected in Supreme Winner in May and Olivier Doleuze caught a three-day suspension when acetazolamide appeared in his random urine sample, the result of an eye treatment prescribed by his doctor.
But more disturbing were the drug use issues that resurfaced - a reminder, according to officials, that racing is not immune to the problems of the wider community. Apprentice Kevin Leung Ka-wai was banned for six months after a ketamine positive in September. Coming only eight months after Marco Chui Kwan-lai had gone a second time for the drug the previous season, club officials were stung and a 'completely unrelated' broad testing of riders during trackwork, as well as a sweep of the apprentice quarters, followed soon afterwards.
But the matter didn't end there. Just over a week before he was due to resume in early March, Leung was again stood down. As a condition of his return after the ban, he had been bound to provide hair and urine samples during his time out.
On January 31, Leung provided such samples, the presence of an unspecified banned substance was discovered and, after independent testing in Australia confirmed the results, he was called to plead for his ticket before Licensing and failed.
The Shahjee case that concluded in May did not concern a rider, or even a horse to some extent, though it was the win of Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's Shahjee on Derby Day that brought it into the light. There had been unexplained horse positives scattered over previous seasons involving drugs, and the suspicion lay just beneath the surface that contamination of horses by humans could have been one possible explanation. With Shahjee's positive for ketamine, that suspicion became reality, with an extensive inquiry finding the horse had contacted the drug via the mafoo, who had been subject of a court-ordered 12-month probation period over a prior drugs charge; he was fired and warned off.
Yiu was not penalised, other than having the win taken from Shahjee.