The Hong Kong Jockey Club has become the first ruling body in the racing world to allow for the declaration of a valid race result without the judge or stewards witnessing the live event. Amongst the rule changes ratified on Wednesday evening by the annual general meeting and announced to the media yesterday, Rule 31 is understood to be an international first for the club. Previously, the racing rules demanded that 'the judge or his authorised substitute' had to be present in the judge's box when the horses passed the post or the race was automatically void. 'This rule, like most of the rules, has descended from the racing rules in England and some of them are quite old,' chief stipendiary steward John Schreck explained yesterday. 'A rule like this had been drafted when the world knew nothing about video replays or other modern technology and so, at that time, no decision on a race could have been made without the judge being in his box. That has changed and I applaud the stewards of the Jockey Club for having the courage and foresight to take this step first.' Schreck alluded to an incident at Happy Valley during last season when the raceday stewards and judge of the Jockey Club were trapped in a lift during the running of a race and were unable to witness it live. By and large the amendments and additions amounted to a tightening of wording and a formalisation of the rules and of common practice rather than wholesale rule changes. Previously, there had been no preamble to the Hong Kong rules of racing to define them, their purpose and date of introduction. Also, the previous editions were lacking definition of commonly used terms like assistant trainer, entry, declaration, racing stewards (as opposed to stipendiary stewards) and so on. This edition addresses those omissions. As previously announced, the rule regarding fines was passed to allow a penalty of up to $600,000 in addition to terms of suspension or disqualification. The duties of trainers have been heightened with a fresh Rule 53 setting out six requirements with regard to a horse's performance, treatment and preparedness to race, and also under Rule 140, where the responsibility for horses to be presented drug-free for racing has been placed literally on the trainer's plate. 'This has been a major exercise. The changes were passed by unanimous approval at the annual general meeting,' said the club's executive director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. 'The underlying theme is to further strengthen the control over racing, particularly in the area of form and the reporting of factors influencing form. We feel that this is necessary for us to better inform our customers. There is also more clarity in the area of protests now. 'Of course, it is natural that protests will reach a point where views differ on the case but these rules now lay out clearly how the stewards proceed in reaching their decision.' Previously, the protest rule stated that a horse could be placed behind another 'with which it interfered if the stewards consider that such interference has to a material extent affected the chances of the horse[s] suffering the interference'. 'Obviously, if a horse costs another horse a length, it has affected that horse materially,' Schreck said. 'But if it was beaten five lengths we would not uphold the protest. The new wording reflects the need for the stewards to be satisfied that the horse which suffered would have beaten the horse causing the interference had the trouble not happened.' As previously reported, there will no longer be appeals against the raceday stewards' decisions on protest hearings. Also in the changes, horses barrier trialling will now be required to have a name and will no longer be able to trial under a brand only. In the veterinary area, horses will be compulsorily retired if they have suffered two episodes of irregular heart rhythm, although Schreck pointed out that the rule will not be applied retrospectively. And with many apprentices now riding overseas during the summer, and indeed the season, the Jockey Club has headed off a potential problem area by stating that the level of Hong Kong apprentice allowances will not be affected by wins overseas, except those in black-type stakes races. 'The stewards of the Hong Kong Jockey Club are important, busy people around this town and they have given their valuable time to this. I think they have done a pretty good job,' Schreck said. 'That view in no way reflects on what has gone before, but we now have a set of rules and instructions relating to the way racing in Hong Kong is undertaken and I think it is one of which we can be proud.' The Jockey Club yesterday cancelled the barrier trials scheduled for Happy Valley tomorrow. The move followed the recent heavy rain, which is forecast to continue for the next few days.