Leung age change a headache for Club
Jockey Club plans for next season's training roster have been thrown into turmoil after trainer Andy Leung Ting-wah's successful action to have his official date of birth corrected.
The original date of birth on record for Leung at the Jockey Club - also the date of birth on his Hong Kong identity card - was June 14, 1947, meaning he would reach the club's compulsory retirement age of 65 before the end of this season. Leung believed the date to be erroneous, claiming his actual date of birth was June 26, 1948, and applied to the relevant government authority to have the matter investigated.
In late December, Leung's claim was rejected, but he appealed and a further review found in Leung's favour.
Trainers are required to apply anew for their licences each season and, with the matter of his age now apparently cleared up, Leung's application for the 2012-13 season can go to the next licensing committee meeting on March 22.
But the situation has seriously upset Jockey Club plans to promote one of the senior assistant trainers to a trainer in his own right next season.
'The difficulty is that we will begin some major stable refurbishment work at Sha Tin at the end of this season. That's going to take some of our facilities out of play and we have put plans in place that will only allow for a maximum of 24 trainers,' said executive director of racing Bill Nader yesterday.
'With that in mind, we didn't replace Alex Wong Yu-on when he retired at the end of last season, but we had planned to do so for 2012-13, knowing that Andy Leung would be retiring and our numbers would stay at 24, even after appointing a new local trainer. But now we've had to postpone interviewing assistant trainers for the promotion process and, unless we don't get a full list of 24 applicants for next season from the current list, there won't be a new trainer.'
Even if another current trainer was to unexpectedly relinquish his licence for next season later on, leaving only 23 yards, club officials would be uncomfortable promoting the next assistant due to the timing.
By the time the interview and selection process had been worked through properly, their fear is that any new trainer would be at a disadvantage in gaining clients for next season if appointed in mid-year.
The ID card review was not Leung's only victory lately in what has been an otherwise disappointing season for him on the racetrack. He has trained only five winners and needs 13 to comply with the Jockey Club's performance criteria.
Leung was fined HK$250,000 for an improper act in January after stewards found he participated in the vote by an ownership syndicate on whether a horse should be moved from his stable. It was the second time Leung had been found guilty of a breach of Rule 150, having been fined HK$75,000 in similar circumstances in May, 2010.
But Leung appealed the January fine and, although the charge stood, it was reduced to HK$150,000 on February 7.