Five-pound claimer called on to ride Almond Lee’s Love Chunghwa, despite being on the banned list

It was not a first but it was unusual when Alvin Ng Ka-chun was given special dispensation to ride in just one race at Sha Tin before returning to the suspended list. Ng wasn’t due to return from a ban until Thursday but was forewarned on Friday to be ready when stewards noted that more than half the runners in race nine were allotted weights of 116 pounds or less. When Keith Yeung Ming-lun (pictured) was stood down from the last four races due to a bout of flu, stewards called Ng to take over on Love Chunghwa in his stead.“We had four jockeys in the room but none of them could make the weight or close to it,” said chief steward Kim Kelly. “This was the better option, we had prepped Alvin and horses carried their right weights.” The same situation had occurred on July 7, 2013, when both Ng and Yeung had time shaved off suspensions to ride. Alan Aitken

Fragile Midnite Promise breaks through after a step up in trip

Chris So Wai-yin said keeping the weight on Midnite Promise has been the biggest challenge for a horse that snapped a losing sequence when stepping up in distance. Midnite Promise arrived on a rating of 74 after winning a relatively minor Listed race in New Zealand, and So said the four-year-old had not only battled with the handicaps but also maintaining condition. “He would just fall away after a race and lose 20 pounds after a single start,” he said. “I think the extra time we gave him coming into this race helped as much as the step up to 1,800m. It’s a real balancing act to get him fit enough for the longer distances while also keeping him healthy.” Michael Cox

Crowd figures drop substantially year-on-year, but more than meets the eye behind figures

A dramatic downturn on comparative crowd figures from the corresponding raceday last season wasn’t what it seemed with around 50,000 less fans coming through the gates. Last year’s meeting on January 10 was the Jockey Club’s 130th anniversary fixture, which was heavily promoted, featured visits from dignitaries and also a rare racetrack appearance from HKSAR chief executive Leung Chun-ying. Yesterday saw an attendance of 21,048 and an understandable dip in turnover compared to the more than HK$1.43 billion held 12 months ago, down to a total handle of HK$1.26 billion. “Obviously the comparison isn’t a fair one, but we do have to accept that we are going to be down a few per cent on those figures,” said club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. Michael Cox

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