Trainer Sean Woods has 'written off' this season because of noise from a construction site next to his stables, which he says has sparked an exodus of owners from his yard and caused him to lose all confidence in his runners.
Woods snared a much-needed double at Sha Tin yesterday, and credited a five-day respite from work on the expansion of the Hong Kong Sports Institute. The trainers claim noise from the billion dollar-plus development has plagued he and neighbouring trainer David Ferraris for the past three years at their state-of-the-art stables, built for the 2008 Olympics.
Work at the Sports Institute's indoor tennis and badminton courts is expected to be completed within a month, but both Woods and Ferraris, who claims to have lost 'millions of dollars' and half of his stable because of the disruption, say the damage has already been done.
'I've written the season off and it's not fair to people who are betting, they should know,' said Woods, whose brace took him to just eight wins this season, after he notched 18 last term.
'I've given up betting, because I can't be confident about how the horses will run, but there are people out there backing our horses and when they lose they're blaming me, or they're blaming the jockey, but the truth is that the blame belongs somewhere else.
'This is the first time that for four or five days that there's been no construction, we've just been so lucky that there was the bank holiday on the Wednesday, plus Easter Friday, Saturday and Sunday.'
Woods sent around eight horses yesterday for two winners - Brothers In Arms and Diamond Knight - plus three placegetters.
'It just goes to show,' he said of the results. 'Today I feel like they were different horses, they were active and able to do their jobs.'
Many residents can attest to the distraction caused by construction sites, but Woods said the effects of the noise on race horses was particularly debilitating. 'The noise is diabolical; pile-driving, drilling, hammering - the works - and you can see in the general way the horses are running, they're running tired,' he said. 'They're coming here to run races and they're looking great, Jenny Chapman picks them out of the paddock - they look well and do everything right but they're tired horses. You can see the gradual decline in our horses ... we try to do our best, but we've got no confidence in them.'
Andreas Schutz and Michael Chang Chun-wai are also based at the complex, but claim to not be affected by the noise, as their stables face in the opposite direction and are further away from the work site.
Ferraris, who described his time at the new facilities as 'three years in purgatory', raised his concerns 12 months ago, blaming the noise on his poor start to the season, and was assured by officials at the time that 'the worst of it is over'.
Woods said there has been little respite in the last year though and it continued to play havoc with his horse's preparations, but both trainers major gripe was that they were not made aware of the proposed work before they moved.
'We weren't told about it when we were sent there,' Woods said. 'The club have put their hands up and said 'we can't do anything about it, it's not our construction site'. But we can't do anything about it either, we've gone absolutely berserk about it.'
Ferraris added: 'I volunteered to go there thinking how nice it was, they are the nicest stables in Hong Kong, but it has been a disaster. The results will show in the future when things get back to normal.'
The number of wins Sean Woods has netted after yesterday's double