The offshore betting issue has truly come to life in the last 10 days following the entry of William Hill into the Hong Kong Internet market. Doubtless the Jockey Club is in constant contact with the relevant government people and one wonders what they have made of it, although the whisper now is that very early next year will at least see the Gambling Ordinance amendments through into law. Then begins the much bigger fight for tax restructuring. One also wonders what the Government made of the giant Gibraltar-based Victor Chandler bookmaking organisation coming down strongly on the Jockey Club's side, revealing past meetings with the Club and wishing only to work with it on developing Internet betting on Hong Kong racing in the future. Altruism is such a rare and delicate bird. Highly bemused by it would be the big professional players of the Hong Kong tote, who are the Jockey Club's best customers and their most reviled, all at the same time. As one big punter put it, the Jockey Club won't want the pros to bet offshore but regularly closes down accounts for betting through the Hong Kong tote. And at the same time the Club probably wants to keep their billions of turnover dollars. It is ironic that the customers so often being ankle-tapped by the Club do not, by and large, want to bet with illegal bookies or offshore operations. There are many good reasons for not wishing to bet by either course, despite the inducements of bonuses. Not showing their hand is one. For another thing, by going through the Jockey Club's tote system they don't have to worry about getting large or complex bets on, or about getting paid if they win (although sometimes the frozen accounts cause a few chillblains), both of which can be of concern betting in other sectors. As big as the British bookmaking firms may be, they, like other Internet bookies, have a well-earned reputation for talking bigger bets than anyone can actually get down with them and a long history of not responding well to winners. And if they ever decide to bet some of the more exotic pools like quinellas and trifectas, it is a warm favourite that they will impose price ceilings. At the Jockey Club, punters get on sky high, get paid immediately and get the dividend, whatever it might be. Now which multinational bookmaking firm is prepared to offer any part of that? Christophe Soumillon, the new riding sensation in France, will not make his Asian riding debut in the Hong Kong Cup aboard Terre A Terre on December 16, but in Macau the day before. Soumillon, 20, who has replaced Gerald Mosse as first jockey for the Aga Khan, approached the Macau Jockey Club in November about the possibility of a riding stint. The MJC was only too happy to license the Belgian from December through to February, but his schedule has not allowed him to start his contract until Saturday week. Soumillon, who won this year's French Derby on Anabaa Blue, had planned to take up the position after the Hong Kong International meeting but MJC officials pointed out that there was a meeting on December 15 and he already had a licence, so it was up to him if he rode, and he decided to jump right in. On the matter of jockeys and big events, Weichong Marwing and Simon Yim Hin-keung might have applied to have their careless riding suspensions varied to allow them to ride in next week's International races and the International Jockeys' Championship respectively. They did not apply for such treatment, but it was open to them. In other parts of the world, jockeys' penalties are often shifted or deferred to allow the stars of racing to take their place in the sport's major events. There are opposing views on the merits of allowing riders to skirt rules to ride in the major races and do their time when it suits them better. On one side, you have the owners, and arguably the public, which would want to see the best jockeys in the best races, and the jockeys themselves who would argue that any penalty is unfairly multiplied by the inclusion of Group One days. In Australia, certainly, you have on the other side professional stewards' panels who believe the riders should have thought about the big day before they transgressed. They also argue the weight of the penalty takes major events into account and jockeys are always questioned on coming engagements before penalties are handed down. In a closed jockey pool like Hong Kong, everything reads a little differently, but Marwing and Yim chose not to test the Jockey Club's view of what was more important - the strong enforcement of safety in races or the participation of showcase names in the big shows.