It takes weeks of careful preparation and perfect timing by teams of specialists to ensure race day runs smoothly Dr Terence Wan See-ming Head of racing laboratory Our laboratory, an independent department within the racing division, is primarily involved in analysing biological samples for the purpose of doping control. We have the best technology. It is one of only four such laboratories in the world, so in addition to testing Hong Kong horses (and jockeys), we do analysis for all equestrian events held in Asia. On December 11, we will be testing all declared starters before and after the races. Our day begins at 4am, when we start collecting urine samples from 140 horses. Hong Kong stable assistants are the best in the world. They can ask a horse to urinate, and will be 98 per cent successful. Sometimes, with overseas horses, we cannot get a urine sample and will need to ask the veterinary surgeons to come and take a blood sample. The samples are delivered by our security officers at 7am, and we have five hours to get the results. Different jurisdictions have different rules, but in Hong Kong there is no prohibited list. Basically any substance that is external to the horse (in other words, is not produced naturally) and can have a possible pharmacological effect is banned. It's a very complicated testing process - like looking in a forest for one particular tree. Urine and blood contain a lot of chemicals produced naturally in a horse, and there can be thousands in a sample. We start by removing the contamination, then purifying, extracting and analysing by using separate identification techniques. If something comes out as suspicious, we have to repeat the test. We have 42 staff working in the laboratory, 29 of them with bachelor's degrees or higher, mostly in chemistry. Testing is conducted again after racing, but at this stage the timing is not so critical. Some of the jockeys are also tested before the race (we do this by drawing lots), and all of them are tested afterwards. It used to be that stable assistants (or mafoo) received an allowance for collecting urine [from horses]. We stopped that practice years ago after a sample was found to contain caffeine and nicotine. The mafoo involved [had obviously used his own urine and] was fired. John Ridley Head of racing operations On race day I try to do as little as possible. The less I do, the better I have prepared. Normally, on race day I will get to the track at 5.45am, and walk the track at 6.20am with the stipendiary steward, track manager and supervisor. Under the rules of international racing, I am responsible for the going condition, or the running of the track. In our own minds, we have to be sure the track is safe for racing and has not been affected by overnight rain. We take turf samples every 200m, looking for moisture content. This will help us decide what we are going to do - whether to put a roller on the track or add a few millimetres of water. This all has to be finished by 7.30am. At 9.15am I am in the office to do the going sheets for the press. I also see to any final checks, such as rail alignments, just in case. My department is responsible for all the little things; making sure the starting gate equipment is there, that the horses get to the weighing station ... The brands of all horses are officially checked in the parade ring, but we do it unofficially before they get there, for obvious reasons. We have to make sure the horses are saddled in time to be presented in the parade ring, and sometimes we will have to hurry the jockeys. For international meetings, we work out all the transport logistics for the foreign horses. They must stay in quarantine when not racing. The only time they mix with local horses is while the race is on - 30 to 45 minutes maximum. If we have a problem in the race meeting, we have to rectify it as soon as possible. If a jockey needs to go to hospital, I will personally notify the family, and make sure they can get to the hospital. Our medical team accompanies the jockey to hospital, and then comes straight back. Meanwhile, we notify jockeys in the remaining races that the full medical team is not on site. They have the option of whether to continue racing. Dr Chris Riggs Head of veterinary clinical services Our role starts right at the beginning, when the international connections phone up to ask if they can get a certain medication or supplement here. We must ensure we can supply everything they need. Every international horse is met by a veterinary surgeon on arrival, given a brief health check to see if they have injured themselves en route, and accompanied to the quarantine barn. The horses have to be moved slowly, so this can be an onerous task and quite time-consuming. Sometimes the horses arrive in the middle of the night. It's the less glamorous side of the job. Once there, we help the regulatory department by taking blood samples. The horses are stabled in two separate quarantine areas, and we provide all their clinical support. Vets visit several times a day to deal with any problems as the horses arrive. The people who come with the horses are charming and a pleasure to work with. Quarantine becomes quite an international village. On the day of the races, we have veterinary surgeons stationed at critical locations: at the start, with the ambulance cart, one following the human ambulance, one on hospital duty, and another providing cover for the parade wing. During a race meeting, horses will often get little cuts and bangs, or occasionally one will become a bit distressed from overexertion. In case of a severe injury, everyone is on standby to get the horse into the operating theatre as soon as possible. We have 23 farriers, a team of veterinary nurses, a dedicated clinical laboratory, an equine hospital and excellent administrative staff who have saved our bacon on many occasions, making sure everything runs smoothly. It's a whole team effort, with a big network of support behind us. Fritz Sommerau Head of hospitality services Planning the catering for international races starts during the previous race meeting. The whole team gets together while things are fresh to share and debate how well we went this year and what we could do better. We look at the flow - was there enough space between tables? - and how we could be more innovative. It is a very exciting challenge for the team. Race fans come from all corners of the globe for this event and we want to give them a dining experience they will talk about when they go home. By the end of June, when the racing season is over, we start looking in more detail at what will happen in December. The international races are growing from year to year, which gives so much more depth to our team's contribution. We have the Wednesday night race meeting at Happy Valley, the welcome dinner, breakfasts at the track, the international sales, jockeys' allocation and so on, with the excitement building up to a lovely finale on the actual day. We always have something new to present, such as the International Beer Festival this year. On the Sunday alone, we will serve 7,800 sit-down meals at 56 locations throughout the racecourse, and 56,000 meals on the run. We mobilise our entire catering team of 280 full-time staff and 1,100 part- timers. They come in before daybreak, and begin the day by opening 6,000 oysters. We will need a fleet of trucks to transport a convoy of equipment - mostly tables, chairs and cutlery - from our other venues to Sha Tin. At an operational level, everything must be seamless. Is it difficult? No, it's just planning and logistics. If Cathay Pacific can fly horses around the world, then surely we can do this. Wan Kin-man Cathay Pacific's manager of cargo hub operations, Hong Kong Cathay Pacific brings racehorses from countries such as Australia, Britain and France to Hong Kong. On average we carry 600 of these frequent fliers a year. Because of their size, horses can only travel on the main deck of a wide-bodied jumbo freighter. We load them into purposely designed air stables, made of glass-fibre reinforced polymers, with three partitions. Each stable includes a passage providing access for the groom, who is responsible for the horse throughout the flight. This is also a legal requirement. Horses are sensitive creatures, and the ground transport must run perfectly smoothly in order not to startle them. Loading is done as close to departure as possible. Horses are the last on and the first off. In Hong Kong, we hand over the horse to a Jockey Club agent within an hour of arrival. The longest flight would be 16 hours, London to Hong Kong. Usually, the horse is not sedated in flight, as this is considered a safety risk. Medications may be used only as a last resort, and would be administered by the groom, subject to the approval of the flight captain. A horse can sleep on its feet, so it can stand all the way. It is fed and watered (though in smaller quantities than usual) by the groom. We have an established procedure in place that is a requirement under the live animals regulations. All staff are trained to ensure that no laws are breeched. Horses usually travel well, and we have never had a major incident. Pako Ip Pak-chung Manager, tracks The outdoor team follows an ongoing programme of regular maintenance, but it is all geared so the track will look its best for the international races in December. Our routine involves doing sample testing every quarter, and this is timed to provide valuable data four weeks ahead of race day. We are looking to identify what chemical additives or nutrients are needed for a balanced nutrition profile, which is essential for priming turf condition and repairing turf after intensive use. Soil samples and grass tissues are taken from defined locations where a data base can be developed and compared, and sent for laboratory testing to the University of Georgia, in the United States. We don't have that sort of expertise here. In the rainy season, we might have to increase this testing to intervals of four to eight weeks. In mid-October, we sow the course with rye grass, so it's a deep shade of green on race day. A cool spell is needed for the rye grass to tiller (which means to get bushy), and we get only a small window of opportunity. Mostly, it's only a visual concern. In terms of track surface, it should still be in prime condition, but a darker green is preferable. In terms of physical preparation, decompaction work is done so the track is neither too hard in dry weather nor too soft in rain. For general grooming, we start moving the fence two weeks ahead of race day to the widest position (A Course), repairing divots and sowing or turfing as needed. Our major challenge is to provide a premier and acceptable surface for training and racing for both southern and northern hemisphere horses, which could have different expectations of track surface, and to co-ordinate safe, organised and efficient track work sessions for overseas riders and jockeys, some of whom hardly speak English. There are 85 outdoor maintenance people looking after the two courses (Happy Valley and Sha Tin), and we'll bring staff from Happy Valley to help us in the final preparation. Ten staff look after the dirt track, which is used for most of the training. We have teams starting at 2am and 4am, and teams that water from 1pm to 10pm. Our crew will be working almost around the clock.