Perhaps sport should be run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, if last Sunday's announcement that it will be providing HK$50 million for four riders to prepare for the next Asian Games is the barometer for visionary planning. How fortunate are Patrick Lam, Samantha Lam, Kenneth Cheng Man-kit and Gaelle Tong? The four showjumpers have been guaranteed funding by the Jockey Club for the next four years. The HK$50 million largesse seems huge. But part of it will also be used towards setting up a junior equestrian team aged between 12 and 18. Tong falls into this category, but the talented teenager has already been identified as a future champion and is included with the other three, all of whom represented Hong Kong at the Olympics in August. The four are lucky on a number of counts. Primarily, having a rich benefactor like the Jockey Club which has ensured they needn't worry about looking for horses, sponsors or even their jodhpurs - and can just get on with the job of jumping those fences. The other big deal is that this money is available right now. Other sports must be green with envy. 'I'm sure the other sports must be jealous,' chuckled Edwin McAuley, vice-president of the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation. No kidding. If you have a patron like the Jockey Club, your long-term future is all but ensured. Four years is a handy period for coaches and administrators to plan ahead. While the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou is the main target, the Jockey Club said the HK$50 million will also help the quartet prepare for next year's World Equestrian Games as well as the 2012 London Olympics. They have set their sights high in aiming for the Olympics. This year Hong Kong riders were given wild cards by the International Olympic Committee. In four years, they can't expect any favours. But Tong and company will still be motivated and eager to prove they are worthy of being singled out. The selection was based mainly on being eligible for the Asian Games. This means you either have to be born in Hong Kong, or have Asian parentage. All four qualify. Jennifer Lee, the fourth Hong Kong rider to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, failed to make the cut as she is neither. She got the name Lee by marriage. The next set of criteria was the result of the assessment test done for this year's Olympics; the individual's competition record this year and their level of commitment. With Lee out of the picture, the Jockey Club - which picked the four for what will now be known as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Equestrian Team - went for 17-year-old Tong to join the Olympic trio. Hong Kong-born Tong is the daughter of a Chinese father and French mother. She first sat on a pony in France when she was two and was jumping fences a year later. Gaelle started riding lessons in Hong Kong at the age of six. She began to compete seriously and her most memorable achievement was victory in the Southeast Asian young riders World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 2004. Two years ago, she represented Hong Kong at the Doha Asian Games. She was also one of the riders assessed for Jockey Club funding in 2007 in the build-up to the Olympics, and although she scored highly, the selection panel felt she was too young to take part in the highly charged atmosphere of an Olympic Games. Widely regarded as a star-in-waiting, Tong has now been given the licence to thrill with the Jockey Club's financial backing. So at 17, she has the financial independence to concentrate on training and competing. She is lucky. How many other budding athletes would love to be in her shoes? This is not the first time that the Jockey Club has doled out money. It previously gave HK$20 million so riders could buy horses and pay for other costs in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. But there was so much uncertainty at the time as it wasn't certain who would be eligible for the funding - the riders still hadn't met their minimum qualification requirements - and there was hardly any lead-up time for the riders to get to know their horses, some of which were bought only six months prior to the Games. To preclude all such confusion, the Jockey Club has acted and fronted up the cash now. We can only wish such a clear, and long-term funding programme was in place for other sports, too. Sadly, the rest of the sporting community will have to depend on annual government handouts. While the Sports Institute acts as a buffer and guarantees those 11 sports within its halls will get sufficient funding for their athletes, it is still very much an ad-hoc arrangement - made even worse by all the insecurity stemming from the financial meltdown. What about the other sports? Soon after the Olympic equestrian events ended at Sha Tin, Hong Kong team leader Sacha Eckjans asked who would step in and foot the bill for the athletes for future Games. He asked how athletes could afford to be based in Europe due to the lack of high-level competition in Hong Kong. Like the others, Patrick Lam's parents had been his financial backers in the past. But you couldn't expect family and friends to carry the load every time an Asian Games or an Olympics came around. Lam said he couldn't afford to go solo and wondered how he could continue to represent Hong Kong. Happily for everyone, all their prayers have been answered this week. 'A lot of people thought that once we had the Olympics, the Jockey Club would walk away. They have been proven wrong,' says McAuley. This has to be the best legacy from the Olympics - the Jockey Club's continued involvement.