HONG KONG racing stands on the brink of a new year numerically short of at least two quality overseas riders as the result of one voluntary defection and one enforced departure. The season began with American Randy Romero retained by Gary Ng Ting-keung and the excellent Australian, Darren Beadman, with Neville Begg. This maintained the ratio that had existed for a couple of seasons between expatriate and local riders. As far as overseas riders were concerned, it was self-evidently the number that the Jockey Club deemed necessary to licence in order to maintain the high standards attained in recent seasons. While Romero, despite his international reputation and Breeders' Cup triumphs, never quite hit it off nor made any real impact with punters, Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Beadman was a smash hit, until his recent lamentable transgression. Considering the quality of jockeys who left these shores at the end of last season - Gerald Mosse, Declan Murphy and Brent Thomson - it is little wonder that a senior Jockey Club official said last week that, like wine, this was not a vintage year. Director of Racing Philip Johnson says that the Jockey Club is keeping the present situation under observation but there are no immediate plans to bring in another overseas rider, despite the shortfall. He points out, and there is validity to the statement, that the situation that has developed since the departure of Romero in particular, has meant increased opportunities for local apprentices such as Francis K. S. Lam and Eddie W. M. Lai. That is definitely welcome as these lads are not only talented but also have the right approach to the sport. They are determined, willing to learn and dedicated. If they continue along these lines their future and - to an extent - that of local racing isassured. But the temptations that are so intricately a part of the Hong Kong scene are alluring - and potentially deadly to an aspiring young rider. Events of recent weeks have graphically demonstrated that. It would be wise for the Jockey Club to consider the employment of another major name on a three-month basis. We do need the big names from abroad, not only for enhanced credibility internationally but also to assist the smaller trainers who are an integral part of the sport here. The three-month scheme has been a smashing success. And those who are wise in the ways of Hong Kong racing will say that the continuation of this policy can thwart the designs of the unsavoury few. They seek out and, unfortunately, from time to time ensnare some riders who are here on a long-term basis. Hence the introduction some years ago of the three-year rule. Short-term engagements of quality riders with established reputations will more readily produce performances where the keynote quality is a desire to win and impress. In the aftermath of the Beadman case, the question most asked by the populace at large was . . . why? Here was a household name from Australia, whose ability put him right up there with the best in the world, deliberately stopping a horse from doing its best to win. Two of life's motivating factors are love and money. As it is hard to see the former entering into the outcome of a moderate Sha Tin race, it could be not unreasonably assumed that, somewhere or other, the latter was involved. And the entire regrettable episode suggests that, following the correct action taken by the stipendiary stewards, the onus has shifted firmly to the Security Department of the Jockey Club. It is ludicrous to suggest that Beadman simply had a momentary aberration. To some extent he was the victim and he has been punished. But are we to believe that nobody else at all was in any way involved? Surely not. And that can only mean that there is a small but deadly cancer in local racing. In the light of the salutary action taken by the stipendiary stewards, it may be temporarily halted. But if the Jockey Club's Security Department is to really earn its money, the time for action is now. IT was illuminating to read last week that the English Jockey Club deem a fine of $5,500 fit punishment for breaching what in Hong Kong is the dreaded Rule 131 (i). Yet a rider who uses the whip from above shoulder height and hits a horse beyond a certain number of times - though it is unmarked and eventually wins - can be stood down for five or six days. Absolutely cock-eyed. All may not be right all the time with Hong Kong racing but at least we do get most of our priorities right. FINALLY, my elevation to knighthood status in a by now surely infamous television programme aired worldwide last midweek, caught many by surprise. This was clearly an unfortunate leak in advance of the New Year's Honours list but, rest assured, nothing has changed. My newly elevated position in society has meant nothing to local taxi-drivers, particularly when attempting to legitimately pay my way from Happy Valley to Broadcast Drive. My immediate circle of family and friends have also failed to grasp that this signal honour brings with it no financial rewards. As for the rest of you, when we by chance meet, feel free to call me by the usual names you have over the years. Hmmm, on second thoughts . . . Here's to a happy and prosperous 1994.