THE lack of runners at last week's first night meeting of the new season at Happy Valley put early-season programming into the spotlight and also focused renewed attention on our outdated entry system. It would hardly have been over-optimistic to expect full fields at only the second meeting of the season but the first race saw a disappointing five runners. Later races did not fill, either. The first race was over 1,800 metres and it was, quite simply, a programming error to have this distance event - as it is considered in Hong Kong - at this very early stage of the season. Trainers will not push their horses early to have them ready for races like this and it is fully understandable. They have owners to please and a nine-month season to get through. Climatic conditions in August and September are not conducive to getting horses ready for a first-up crack at 1,800 metres or beyond. Again, however, it highlighted the system where the Jockey Club has made a rod for its own back by not allowing any flexibility at declarations. It really does seem time to introduce the five-day entry system which works so well in other major racing countries. It should be adopted in Hong Kong to allow for a much more streamlined approach - and also the eradication of the virtual non-event last Wednesday's opening race turned out to be. With entries taken so far in advance and weights also allocated many days before a race, it is not surprising trainers will put horses in even if the chances of them racing are slight. Much can go wrong and right in the interim to influence a final decision to run. By entering on a Monday for a weekend meeting a trainer has virtually decided that he is going to start. Wastage of time and effort in various departments is therefore cut back dramatically. Weights are framed the following day and declarations taken as normal. One view taken is that the present antiquated system suits, in particular, the press. But it should be noted that there have been very major advances in newspaper technology in both the Chinese and English press which allow for much later print times and deadlines. Besides, a hybrid version of the five-day system could be tailored for the needs of local racing. Entries can be taken as at present but not divided at that stage, sparing us the reserve list that is longer than those drawn to race. At declarations, the final decision can be taken - on the basis of confirmed runners - as to what races and divisions are framed. It would be a permanent farewell to the miserly fields that dog the sport, particularly late in the season. It is scarcely a radical suggestion and it has been made in these columns before. But it is necessary. Likewise, there is no logical reason for barring two-year-olds from starting in the griffin semi-classics later in the season. They are not allowed to take on three-year-olds at weight for age in the Happy Valley Vase - a race which invariably never fills. But these youngsters are then classified into open company where they are asked to give weight to four-year-olds and upwards. This makes the stance over the semi-classic griffin events totally illogical. Commonsense should dictate that consistency prevails. On a brighter note, the excellent effort of Jimmy K. H. Ting on Gold Yue Yee in the final event on Saturday was a timely reminder that local riders can hold their own. However, it does come down to ability, determination and a realisation that one is nearly always learning in this game. Ting was given very definite help by his former master, Brian Kan Ping-chee, but his attitude has always been right. The opportunities exist as they always have done. Ting has shown just how they can be taken.