World class American rider Gary Stevens has declined a Hong Kong Jockey Club invitation to ride here in December in a major blow to the Club's international jockeys' programme. Stevens, who completely captivated Hong Kong racegoers with a series of scintillating displays in the saddle two seasons ago, has reluctantly informed the Jockey Club that he cannot take up the one-month licence at the end of the year. From New York last night his close friend and agent, Ron Anderson, said: 'Unfortunately it's just not possible for Gary to go to Hong Kong in December. 'There are a couple of reasons for the decision, which was taken with some reluctance. 'Gary was out of action here injured for about three months and he has just come back. It is very important for his career in America that he doesn't miss out on major meetings at this time. Taking a month out of the calendar here after being out of it for three months would be difficult,' said Anderson. Anderson also cited personal reasons behind the decision of the American superstar not to return to the territory he took by storm two years ago. 'There are family reasons involved, too, as you might expect at that time of the year,' he said. Stevens rode here under retainer to trainer Steven S. L. Leung but he pulled out of the agreement after three months and returned to big-time riding in America - winning the Kentucky Derby a few months later. Stevens simply bowled over punters in Hong Kong by notching doubles and trebles regularly and getting home on horses that, at times, seemed to have no more than a modest chance. In a short spell, he arguably made as big an impact on local racing as any overseas jockey in the 25 years of professional racing. Chief executive of the Jockey Club, Lawrence Wong, announced at his pre-season press briefing that Stevens had been invited and the indications were that he would come. The Jockey Club will now almost certainly have to consider a one-month replacement for Stevens with the odds on it being a European rider. Epsom Derby-winning jockey Michael Hills, who has not ridden in Hong Kong before, will come solidly into the reckoning. He took the premier Classic on Shaamit and also won the coveted King George VI on the brilliant Pentire and is one of the top younger riders in Britain. Earlier this season, director of racing, Philip Johnston, said: 'Hills has been winning everything over there. He would have a strong chance if there is a vacancy.' Reigning Irish champion jockey John Murtagh has confirmed acceptance of his November date and said: 'Leopardstown on October 28 will be my last day riding in Ireland this season. I have my first rides in Hong Kong on November 2.'