'Some mornings it's a very early start. Luckily I live [in accommodation at Sha Tin] racecourse so it's not much of a commute. If it's not a race day I'll arrive at the track around 6am for barrier trials, which start at 7am. Barrier testing is for horses that have not raced in Hong Kong previously or have had [behavioural] or health issues - they need to pass a test to ensure they're OK to race. The trials are the same as races, with up to 14 horses participating, and my role as starter is the same as it is on a race day. Horses can also have a jump out of the gates individually or in pairs and gallop 1,000 metres. I work with the jockeys and 'barrier boys', the guys who handle the horses. It's not a job for the faint-hearted. We've got a very good crew; a lot of them are experts from overseas who have raced, finished their careers and come to work here. I'll go home for breakfast around 8.30am. [After I return to the club] we have to do office work. There are always race fields [forms detailing the line-up for each race] or field nominations coming out, and barrier education is available in the afternoon for trainers who have horses causing problems on race day, whether they are being difficult to load [into the gates] or refusing to stand still for the desired time. At lunch I like to catch up with news from home [New Zealand] via the internet then I head back to the office until around 5pm. [On race days] what we have to put in place before the race is a loading order. We can't alter the draw but we can try to make sure the bad horses don't go into the gates too soon, otherwise they're going to create problems for the others. Even the ones that do co-operate want to get out of the gates straight away. Racehorses are highly strung animals, so to get them to stand still in a confined space for any length of time is not natural, and on race days sometimes the crowd atmosphere can get to them. The barrier attendants do a great job with them and sometimes just a reassuring pat on the neck can distract them enough to get them loaded and away. There are other ways to deal with horses that have bad barrier manners, including the use of blindfolds, which are removed just prior to [the race]. Before each race our deputy starter stands behind the horses. We've both got earpieces and he lets me know when the last horse has gone in the gates. When that's done there's a flag that goes up, so the commentators and anyone else watching knows it's all clear. I'm watching the field and I've got a set of lights in front of me that I activate. The jockeys and their handlers are all watching the lights and that means at any time afterwards we're ready to go. There's no countdown - it's up to me. You've just got to try and pick what you think is the best moment. Ideally the whole process doesn't take longer than a minute or 90 seconds. It's always nice to see the horses come out as one but that doesn't always happen. We're really there to prevent any mishaps, because if you've got a horse that scratches its leg or gets hurt in the barrier, it's a huge cost to the club. There's millions of dollars on some of these horses, so we just want to get everything away in one piece. You only get one chance - there's no rewind button. Thankfully we don't really have false starts. If a horse happens to rear as I let them out of the gates the stewards will try to determine if the animal's done that of its own accord or whether there was some kind of malfunction. We generally don't call races off but [the management] may decide, if something seems to have been badly tampered with, to take a horse out of the race and out of the betting, which is a very costly thing to do. We've started a new programme for members of the [Hong Kong Jockey Club's] Racing Club, which takes them out to the gates to watch the starts up close, a side of racing that few people get to see. Having people around the track hasn't bothered me or the horses one bit - after all, we start races in front of the grandstands where there's a crowd of 30,000 or 40,000. You have to be aware of the pressure but if you let it get to you, you won't be able to do the job. Normally, after the last race, we'll head to the official lounge upstairs, where we can have something to eat, a couple of beers and a chat. I'll usually be in bed by 9pm or 10pm. I'm a butcher by trade but I always enjoyed being around horses. I used to do a bit of hunting at home, some riding out in the fields. So I started working on the tracks on the weekends and worked my way up to starter. I was a starter in New Zealand for 12 years then the opportunity came for me to take up a position here. It's a great racing atmosphere in Hong Kong. Local people just love horse racing; it's a huge thing. There's probably nothing like it anywhere else in the world. New Zealand's certainly got a big race following but a lot of the time it's just a pastime for people to train horses; it's a hobby game for a lot of people down there. You've got the best jockeys in the world riding here and very good horses. On the weekends we don't race, [my wife] and I enjoy going to places such as Sai Kung or Shek O to take our dog for a walk and eat at the seafood restaurants. Holidays between [racing] seasons usually mean a trip back to New Zealand to catch up with family, play a bit of golf and enjoy the nice clean Kiwi air. I'm definitely not a gambling man - I've never been involved in the betting side of the races. I haven't seen too many rich men walk out of [the tracks].'