BY this advanced stage of the racing season the calendar for the new one beginning in mid-September should be all but ready for the printer. It would be prudent for the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club to make the few blank midweek dates next season meaningful. Meaningful non-racing dates? Yes, believe me, instead of being chosen seemingly at random or after a decreed number of midweek meetings, these blank dates could have considerable significance in relation to the standing of Hong Kong on the international scene. The prime examples are the major yearling sales in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Hong Kong owners and trainers are now big players in these important markets and it is no surprise that they are being increasingly given the red-carpet treatment. Well, possibly with the exception of Brian Kan Ping-chee and Bruce Hutchison whose visa problems with Australia and France were decidedly unfortunate. The Easter Sales in Sydney two weeks ago saw the trainers' ranks denuded for almost a week.
The final count was 12 of our esteemed handlers absent for a midweek meeting, but looking after their prospective owners' interests in Sydney. Yet, just another week down the line we have a blank Wednesday when nothing of importance is happening either locally or internationally.
A switch in dates would have been opportune. Keeneland in Kentucky, Karaka in New Zealand and Newmarket in England are all sales of major significance internationally and it is important that Hong Kong be represented - as, indeed, we will be. But it would be better for local racing if trainers could attend these sales on blank days in Hong Kong - or at least on as many occasions as possible. In that way they can keep their hands firmly on the stable tiller - and in increasingly competitive Hong Kong racing it is very much a hands-on job - and still have the time to buy for their owners in the markets of the world.
WHEN finalising the details of next season's simulcast events, the Jockey Club might consider the English 2,000 Guineas as a betting alternative to the Grand National. The emphasis is on betting alternative, not the replacement of the National which is a visually exciting spectacle and would keep fans in their seats even without the opportunity to bet. The 2,000 Guineas is ideal for Hong Kong punters.
Normally, there would be no requirement to bracket runners on the tote and it is usually an open contest. It is also the first leg of the Triple Crown and the most important race in the calendar before the Epsom Derby which has always been the jewel in the Hong Kong simulcast crown. The Grand National is a bad betting race for the territory and that cannot be altered.
In England, betting on the race is all about value. But in the end it is the spectacle that brings people back.
SPLENDIDLY attired and seated on magnificent black horses, members of the Lifeguards frequently adorn British tourist publications.
The Lifeguards sit statue-still on their horses in Whitehall, horse and rider trained not to move a muscle despite the endless attentions of camera-clicking tourists. Recruitment to the elite unit is not a problem, but they do have one readymade candidate should a vacancy arise.
He is the mounted handler who looked a potential recruit as he sat motionless astride his horse when Good Choice gave a collection of mafoos, an assistant trainer and Lance O'Sullivan a particularly torrid time before the seventh event on Saturday. His only contribution was to walk and trot alongside Good Choice as he finally decided to head for the start.
Not near enough to touch, of course. THE stewards could not decide if the whip of champion jockey Basil Marcus made contact with the head of Top-Worth in the dramatic finish to the third event.
Head-on patrol films available to press and public were also inconclusive. It does suggest that the Jockey Club, always at the forefront of technological developments, might consider obtaining higher-definition cameras.
Those exist with cricket lovers now able to see the seam of the ball as it turns towards an opposing batsman.
Money has been spent on less worthy projects in the past.