The Jockey Club's decision to introduce a new bottomweight of 113 pounds this season has caused, as it had to, difficulties for the majority of riders attempting to ride the minimum. For many it is clearly an impossible task but some valiantly, and vainly, attempt to do so while other riders declare a probable one or two pounds overweight. With three meetings of the season over, course announcers at both tracks have had a major increase in their workload while those racegoers interested have had to scribble furiously before virtually every event to keep up with the official weight changes. The decision to drop the minimum weight - which goes against the trend elsewhere in the racing world where the minimum is being raised - came late last season with little explanation. The reasons are twofold: having to carry less weight (from top to bottom in the handicap, it must be stressed) is beneficial to horses while the 113 pounds minimum will give increased riding chances to local jockeys. It must be questioned as to just how much research was actually done before the decision was taken and on exactly what basis it was reached. Frankly, it smacks more of a back-of-the-envelope calculation than a database-researched recommendation. The weight amounts involved, in the case of horses, are so negligible as to be unimportant. And the Jockey Club, in the more recent past, have applied a maximum topweight to ensure that horses are not heavily overburdened. In the matter of jockeys, however, it is completely the reverse. In dropping the minimum weight the Jockey Club would seem to have ignored sports physiology statistics which show that, in developed countries, people are not only living longer they are also taller and heavier than their forebears. Rightly, the Jockey Club has gone to great lengths in recent seasons to protect their local riders and to ensure that they get a very fair slice of the rich Hong Kong racing pie. And they have succeeded with special restricted races and prize money inducements. Certainly there are one or two local riders who will benefit from the new minimum - Simon Yim springs to mind - but not all. Among the overweight announcements over the past three meetings have been a number involving apprentices who could not ride to their full allowance. That is not good and will inevitably hurt their chances of obtaining rides as, understandably, any trainer wants the full benefit of a claim. We may well have the paradox that this new minimum weight will actually cost apprentices rides because a number will not be able to scale 103 to 105 pounds. With the new scale, we are increasingly likely to see certain races where the second or third section of a particular race has a topweight around 122 pounds - or a ridiculous situation where eight or nine horses are on the minimum of 113 pounds with 80 per cent of the jockeys putting up overweight. Another flaw is the apparent operation of two sets of rules by the Jockey Club in relation to weight. For Class One races, there is a proviso to raise the topweight to increase the chances of the race filling where an original entry - rated over 120 - has meant a number of horses being out of the handicap. When the 120-rated horse does not run, the weights are put up to bring horses back into the handicap and ensure a much fuller field. This is only in Class One but surely should apply overall - or not at all. Above all, however, what has the new minimum weight done for Hong Kong racing? Is it desirable that top class jockeys are forced to forfeit rides because they cannot make what many will see, in this day and age, as an unrealistic minimum weight? The answer to that would surely have to be negative as anything that can lower the overall standard must be resisted. On the evidence of the first three meetings of the season, the new weight scale would seem to have ensured more work for the course announcers, fewer rides for some expatriate jockeys, more work for the handicapping department and database operators in keeping up with the endless changes, increased opportunities for Yim . . . and a distinct feeling that it is just not worth the trouble it has caused. The amount of rain which fell on Saturday would have made a meeting run on natural grass doubtful. Given the deluge on Hong Kong Island, a Happy Valley turf meeting would almost certainly have been abandoned. The plaudits were, predictably, not long in coming for sandmesh. Fair enough - its ability to withstand downpours and remain a usuable racing surface has been arguably its only asset. But all the praise and the preening should not be allowed to alter a fundamental argument. Sandmesh is not as resilient as natural grass, is costly to maintain, not environmentally friendly and considered by other major racing clubs to be inferior to turf. Let us concede that it saved Saturday's meeting. But, statistically, do we have to put up with an inferior surface for, say, three years so that one race meeting can be saved? And do we throw our hands up in horror if a race meeting is abandoned? To whom does the Jockey Club, as a non-profit making operation, have to answer for lost revenue - shareholders, directors? Certainly not. An abandoned meeting means the immediate loss of eight or nine races but, over a period of seven or eight months, those races can be tacked on to existing programmes. And it has now been stated on considerable authority that sandmesh costs at least three times as much as turf to maintain. So there goes the financial benefit obtained when one of those very rare meetings is actually saved from the weather. The argument that sandmesh is the answer because it ensures racing in all weather conditions is built, like the surface, on sand.