A vexed saga in Hong Kong racing centres on the number of retained jockeys licensed in any given season in relation to local riders and those directly employed by the Jockey Club during the course of that season. Last month the Licensing Committee decided that the number of trainers permitted to retain a stable rider next season would remain at 10. This figure rose at the beginning of this season from the previous figure of eight. Last week a record number of trainers, understood to be 18, requested permission from the Licensing Committee to retain a stable jockey next season. Some have no chance while others will probably feel hard done by if or when the decision goes against them. Local jockeys may well feel that they are getting the short end of the stick whatever the committee decides - at any time. There is no easy answer to all this and the Licensing Committee and the stewards of the Jockey Club have wrestled with the issue on and off for years. The rules and numbers have changed so often over the past two decades that it is highly unlikely anyone will readily remember them all. Looking back over the past two seasons, the biggest area of concern is the role Club jockeys play - and the on-going practice of issuing one-month licences to internationally known riders. It has been the practice to bring in two Club jockeys at the beginning of each season, two at the end and three during the three winter months when talent from the Northern Hemisphere is more readily available. There have been spectacular successes - the obvious current one being Brett Doyle, whose three-month stint has now turned into a career in Hong Kong. Another was Darryll Holland until he blotted his copybook. And the admirable Australian rider, John Marshall, had four years here, having arrived as a Club jockey for a season. The duration of Club jockeys' stays has also changed. Now it is generally three months per jockey per stint, but in the past there have been seasonal licences and licences issued for six months. The Licensing Committee has recognised that there is no easy answer and have tried various approaches to make the Club jockey system work effectively, even if there is a remarkable degree of the 'sink-or-swim' approach to its appointees. An over-riding Jockey Club concern with retained jockeys has always been that the contract between the parties is kept and that the retainership works. However, the professional racing history of Hong Kong is littered with broken agreements as well as broken dreams. Of the three-month licences handed out this season, only Doyle has been notably successful. David Harrison began well and faded out of it. Jason Weaver rode eight winners but was under-employed; John Murtagh, in and out of the stewards' room, rode four while Steven King's stint was unquestionably saved by trainer Bruce Hutchison. Glen Boss started with a bang by riding two winners from his first two rides and got a third on Saturday night. Both he and Danny Nikolic - one winner to date - had less than a handful of rides at Happy Valley. Lack of rides and opportunities is no reflection on their ability. Connections and relationships are already cemented between jockeys riding here full-time and owners and trainers. Of course, there will always be trainers who support the scheme fully - Wong Tang-ping and Hutchison spring readily to mind - but there are just not enough to go around. It is quite obvious that highly successful jockeys riding here full-time will get the pick of outside rides. They are what they are - high-profile, available, popular and extremely successful. A potent combination for any owner and most trainers. I feel that the best arrangement for next season would be a reduction in the number of Club jockeys and a slight increase in the number of stable jockeys retained. There should be one Club jockey for the first three months, two in the middle period and one at the end. That would allow an increase of two stable jockeys while still retaining an acceptable ratio between expatriate and local riders. If this were implemented, of paramount importance would be the quality of the stable riders engaged and this would be down to the Licensing Committee. But it would mean riders available throughout the nine months who would more readily get into the mainstream of racing than most Club jockeys manage in their short spells. It should also remove the sight of talented riders twiddling their whips on the sidelines at Sha Tin every morning because there isn't even work to ride. The one-month licences are really window-dressing because of the names involved. But unless they are jockeys of the standing of Mick Kinane and Gary Stevens, they will ride a few horses and get a couple of winners. One has to look no further back than a couple of months to the stay of British champion jockey, Kieren Fallon. Ultimately, it has always been a question of getting the balance right. And making it work. It is anathema to suggest that the Jockey Club needs another rule in a book that is already over-large. But the case of Stanley K.M. Chin suggests the need for added legislation coming somewhere between Rule 131 and Rule 132 (ii). It offends logic to suggest Chin can be incompetent one week, one day, one race and then competent again two days, two hours later. Competence should not be measured in the space of an hour or two minutes. In a highly professional racing set-up it should be impossible for any jockey to be labelled 'incompetent' and Chin's appeal is almost certainly not just against six days but the slur on his professional ability that will now appear on his record. Rule 131 (ii), which covers incompetent riding, has been around since there were riders here in days gone by who, shall we say, left plenty to be desired. It should be amended to at least include, in the opinion of the stewards, 'ill-judged', 'failed to satisfy', 'unacceptable error of judgment'. It is simply unfair and incorrect to label Chin incompetent but under the - in this case - restricted rules applicable, the stipendiary stewards saw Rule 132 (ii) as their only option. Chin should win his appeal - but the rules should be amended to cover exactly this type of case.