Cheng feels wrath of Kelly & Co
Twelve months ago, the signature charge of Kim Kelly's second season as chief steward was the 'reasonable and permissible measures' rule, with a record five running and handling incidents, with careless riding sharply down.
In 2011-12, only one rider fell foul of that charge but careless riding was back in fashion to the 2009-10 levels - 93 separate charges, at least 208 riding days lost and careless riding fines totalling around HK$1.1 million. Almost half of that came from the pockets of Matthew Chadwick (HK$200,000), Brett Prebble (HK$160,000) and Olivier Doleuze (HK$160,000).
Of those who rode for any length of time, only Tim Clark and Terry Wong Chi-wai escaped the careless riding net, but it was up to French jockey Maxime Guyon in January to add the season's hint of something spicier. Guyon had a more difficult time finding winners on his second visit and frustration spilled out at the 150m mark of a lower grade staying event at Sha Tin when he lashed at Keith Yeung Ming-lun twice with his whip, earning a month's suspension for the moment's lunacy.
Howard Cheng Yue-tin and apprentice Alvin Ng Ka-chun were the main visitors to the stewards' room, with Ng missing 22 meetings for careless-riding offences, but Cheng headed him off, ending the term early after a running and handling offence that took him to 24 days in total. Cheng had been found culpable for Prebble's fall at Sha Tin in February and landed a seven-day suspension, but his ride on My Name Is Bond in May was found to have breached the more serious charge and a 13-meeting ban ensued.
Cheng was never far from Kelly's men. He also managed a positive for a 'flu' remedy that cost him another four days, while New Zealander James McDonald also turned up with a positive, a diuretic that cost him a three-week post-season suspension.
Yet, the overall imprint is one of a tame season judicially, which must pass for a pass mark for the panel. A referee unnoticed has done his job.
The stewards were led elsewhere to fill their days. Whips crept into vogue. Doleuze, Chadwick and Derek Leung Ka-chun were all fined HK$5,000 for consistently dropping their whips, and off-track events provided interesting diversions for Kelly's team in their dual role of judiciary and licensing. Trainer Andy Leung Ting-wah had been penalised several years ago for becoming involved in the internal workings of an ownership syndicate.
The trainer earned a HK$250,000 fine in January for a repeat offence, being part of the voting on whether China Good should be transferred to another trainer. Leung's fine equalled the largest handed out to a trainer, but was reduced to HK$150,000 on appeal and it wasn't his only victory.
With compulsory retirement looming as he approached his 65th birthday, Leung produced a rabbit out of the hat, claiming the birthday on record at the Jockey Club - and on his ID card - was wrong by just over a year.
After his initial entreaty to the relevant government body had been rejected, Leung continued to pursue a change to his recognised date of birth and was answered positively in March, giving him one more year on the training roster.