• Thu
  • Aug 21, 2014
  • Updated: 3:29am
On The Rails
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 2:58am

Is it time to bring back twilight Sunday meetings?

Heat at the start and end of the season is clearly a concern for the Jockey Club, but they may have over-riding priorities

BIO

Alan Aitken has worked in all facets of the media and was the master of the famous AJC Punters Podium at Sydney racecourses for many years. He was one of Australia's most respected racing journalists over almost two decades with The Sydney Morning Herald before joining SCMP in 2001. Alan also has extensive magazine and radio experience and is a respected racing form analyst.
 

The imposition of heat restrictions during the Sha Tin meeting last Sunday makes us wonder if the Jockey Club might have reached a point where consideration could be given to reintroducing twilight or evening meetings in this part of the season.

Reintroducing? Yes, it has been quite a while, well over a decade, but a number of the late meetings in the season were once run with a 6pm start to remove the action from the hottest part of the day for the sake of the horses and riders.

And that was in the time when the season finished in early or mid-June.

There's no getting away from the summer weather and, with a mid-July finish now the norm, we have to wonder if the concept might get dusted off again.

It wouldn't have to be as late as 6pm and the first race could be an hour or two earlier, but just enough to remove it from the middle of the day.

The fact that the club has in place a different regime for days of high heat - taking the horses out later, taking winning photos in the unsaddling area where there is fan cooling and access to hoses - indicates that the Jockey Club recognises significant issues with hot weather and rightly so.

Perhaps it considers the heat restriction routines alone to be a sufficiently proactive approach.

Of course, there will be issues linked to turnover with any shifting of times - free-to-air television coverage will be one; tampering with the hard-wired habits of horse-racing players another; and the timing for commingling viewers overseas might be another still - but they are not insurmountable and there were a few of the club's customers we saw at Sha Tin on the weekend who looked like they might have welcomed the staging of racing in a cooler part of the day.

The club is enthusiastic enough about the turnover attracted at night to be running the final meeting of the season (again) on a Happy Valley midweek card, so it should have no fundamental opposition to night or evening racing at Sha Tin on a weekend.

While we're on the warm weather that prevails at the start and finish of every season, it was an interesting sidebar to Sunday to see horses like Jamesina, Legend Express, and even Familists, win races in amongst the up-and-coming three-year-olds.

Dedicated Hong Kong racing analysts have long made something of how often older horses, or those with a few itches and scratches and miles on the clock, produce good form at the beginning and end of the season.

The theory goes that the hotter weather helps them to warm up better on the way to the start so they aren't feeling their feet or joints the same way. Of course, on the flipside, they have to cope with firmer tracks.

The other thing to take away from what was, in fairness, standard fare at Sha Tin was Bobo Dragon.

It seems remarkable that he ran around at 50-1 in his debut run in Class Four, because the Bobo Dragon we are seeing now - admittedly since blinkers went on - is a Group horse in waiting.

Manfred Man Ka-leung-trained Eagle Regiment looked a Group One horse of the future when he was at a similar stage in Class Three and his stablemate, Bobo Dragon, is every bit as good on the evidence of Sunday's win.

Zac Purton said Bobo Dragon was empty on the line but, if he hadn't been, then he was Silent Witness. Even on a track running quick, Bobo Dragon married up a fast overall time with a very fast finishing sectional - exactly what we want to see from young horses going to the top.

In the immediate future, perhaps the only concern is that he went too well on Sunday and could bounce off that, but his longer term future looks exciting.

Share

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or