Club vows to put lid on noise pollution
Hong Kong Jockey Club officials yesterday sympathised with noise-affected trainers Sean Woods and David Ferraris, but said the club was powerless over a neighbouring construction site and allayed fears of similar problems when renovation begins on some of Sha Tin's ageing stables later this year.
The two trainers claim they have lost races and horses to rival yards because of construction noise from the nearby redevelopment of the Hong Kong Sports Institute, Woods crediting a winning double on Monday to a break in building for last week's public holidays.
The work at the Sports Institute is due to be finished within the next month, but Woods said he had already 'written off' his season, in which he now has only eight winners, because of the unsettling effect the 'diabolical' construction noise was having on his horses.
HKJC racing operations director John Ridley said he could understand the trainers' concerns, but claimed his 'hands were tied'.
'I'm sure it's very frustrating for them, but what can we do? It is not our construction site,' Ridley said. 'The Sports Institute has done the best they can to work in with us, but they've got a job to do as well. They've been expanding now for several years and that work is almost at an end.
'They've tried to do the best they can and I'm sure Sean and David would say it hasn't been enough, but to be fair, they've tried to be good neighbours. If you're on the receiving end, you might not necessarily agree.'
In 2009, the two trainers, along with Andreas Schutz and Michael Chang Chun-wai, moved to the opposite end of Sha Tin, into brand new facilities built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics equestrian events, which were held at Sha Tin.
Schutz and Chang are understood to be not so badly affected, as their stables face away from the work site, but Woods and Ferraris have both blamed poor results on their circumstances.
Work will begin in July on the older facilities where the remaining 20 trainers are situated, with a HK$400 million renovation project to last for nearly two years.
Noise barriers and flexible working hours will be used to minimise the impact on horses, something Ridley said could not be expected from the Sports Institute.
'We're going to a lot of trouble and a lot of expense for noise mitigation and changing work hours,' he said. 'That does increase our construction costs considerably, because we won't start construction until after trackwork is over, and then stop again in the afternoon.
'Our neighbours were never going to be able to do that. They're spending several billion dollars next door, but they're not going to increase their construction period by 50 per cent. You can work out what that would do to their costs.'
Ferraris, who described his time in the new yards as 'three years in purgatory' and blamed a massive loss in horse numbers on the noise, said he should have been made aware of the upcoming Sports Institute work before he moved.
Ridley countered by saying the Jockey Club were not privy to the Sports Institute's plans. 'We did not know their overall plans for the site or that they would be working so close to those stables,' he said. 'As long as the Sports Institute is complying with the local planning laws ... then they're within their rights.'