Disbelieving owners have swamped trainer David Hill with telephone calls urging him to apply for Australian jockey Paddy Payne to ride for the stable again next season. News that Payne would be packing his bags after being verbally informed that he would not be granted a licence spurred an angry reaction. Hill, who was not available for comment on Monday night, said yesterday: 'I am caught in the middle of this. I truly don't know how many owners called me but every time I was on the 'call waiting' buzzer kept sounding off. 'I have no real doubt at all that 100 per cent of my owners want to keep Paddy Payne and cannot understand why he has been told not to apply. 'I have never experienced anything quite like this before. Other jockeys have come and gone but the owners have never been so upset or as united as they are in this case,' added Hill. High-profile former football international Derek Currie, who has last-start winner Casey's Drum with Hill, said: 'It is thoroughly disappointing in view of the fact that Paddy is a world-class rider and I don't know of any owner in David's stable, or any other stable for that matter, who would not want his services. 'Seemingly, the only people who don't want his services are on the Licensing Committee. 'When you're paying monthly training fees, it's nice to know the man on top of your horse gives you value for money and Paddy has certainly done that for me,' added Currie. The former Hong Kong international star, who has been here for 28 years, was amazed when he read that Payne's Hong Kong future was all but nil. 'If this is the case, his services will be sorely missed by the stable, the public and Hong Kong racing generally. As a retaining owner it would be nice to know why but, then again, it was 28 years before the Berlin Wall came down,' Currie said. Payne, who also received a flood of calls, said: 'It's been very encouraging to know that so many owners feel this way and I want to thank them all. I will be talking to some of them and to David but I don't know what I can do.' Payne, of course, can apply for a licence - backed by Hill - and it will then be up to the Licensing Committee to turn it down formally or approve it. If the Jockey Club's security department opposes an application from a jockey to ride here, that is the end of the matter. But reports say that Payne has spoken on at least two occasions to security department personnel and that is not the problem. His weight and the percentage of his outside rides have also been cited - although it is ironic if weight is involved. 'Paddy was doing light for me early in the season, around 121 pounds, but I told him I wanted him to be at a comfortable weight and I could farm out the light rides. It seemed to suit everybody,' Hill said. In other racing news, next season's Hong Kong Derby will be held a week later on March 7 with the annual Classic Trial taking place on February 18. The move will be beneficial to horses imported from the Northern Hemisphere after the season has started in September, giving trainers that extra time that could prove vital. There will be grass trials at Happy Valley on Friday, following the cancellation of yesterday's planned batch due to the weather.