Jockey Club chief executive Lawrence Wong yesterday expressed disappointment and concern about the controversial authorised biography of world famous jockey Mick Kinane and denied that the sensational figure of US$13 million had been mentioned in the May 31 Licensing Committee hearing.
'It was never suggested to jockey Kinane that he was offered the sum of US$13 million. In fact, the sum mentioned was HK$10 million, equivalent to US$1.3 million,' said Wong at a hastily-convened press conference at the Happy Valley racecourse.
The chief executive faced a barrage of questions from racing reporters less than two hours before flying to Shanghai for a special equestrian function.
But he stressed, to repeated questions, that no action would be taken against the jockey who has won races such as the Epsom Derby, Melbourne Cup, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and the Belmont Stakes.
'He has been granted a licence to ride here this season. It is up to him if he wants to come, we are not taking any action against him,' said Wong.
The official Jockey Club response to extracts from Mick Kinane - Big Race King came after a swathe of publicity in both the English and Chinese press.
In an official statement, the Jockey Club said: 'The Club is particularly disappointed that Kinane saw fit to disclose details of the hearing that he was afforded before the Licensing Committee. The purpose of such hearings is to allow all relevant material to be canvassed in private without having any public effect on the reputation of licensed personnel.' Quizzed on confidentiality, Wong said it was a 'gentleman's agreement' and that Kinane should have known about it as he had ridden in Hong Kong for five years. There are no written rules or guidelines on confidentiality.
The statement added: 'Not only is the Licensing Committee disappointed at this breach of confidentiality but it is also concerned that statements made by Kinane as to what happened at the May 31 hearing are both inaccurate and incomplete.' The statement then says the sum mentioned was HK$10 million rather than US$13 million.
The chief executive confirmed that the tapes of the Licensing Committee hearing were checked and listened to before yesterday's statement was drawn up and the press conference held.
Wong said later: 'You have to understand that inquiries like this would lose all meaning if everything was made public because it would mean no one would be prepared to come forward and give information.
'And the applicant always has the right to come and listen to the tapes if he feels he has been unfairly treated. In this case, the tapes could have been listened to prior to the publication of the book.' The chief executive said that no approach had come from author Michael Clower to listen to the tapes.
In response to another question, Wong stressed that the controversial Benji case - where Kinane faced an inquiry into his ride on the then debutant - was not connected with the decision to bring the Irish star back to Hong Kong for the May 31 meeting.
The statement ended: 'The Club expects that everyone who is involved in racing will support the Club's determination to preserve the integrity of racing. If any person does not share that commitment, then the Club has no wish to see that person involved in Hong Kong racing.
'The Licensing Committee remains determined to protect the public interest above all other considerations.'