Stipendiary Stewards certainly not incompetent or negligent
IT would in a sense be wrong for the Jockey Club to respond to every criticism of racing or racing administration published in the press.
However, it would be equally wrong for the club not to react if the reputation and integrity of Hong Kong's racing were threatened by ill-informed or unjust press comment.
It is for this reason that I write now with reference to your Racing Editor's article published in the South China Morning Post, on April 26.
In that article Mr Lawrence Wadey has made some very serious accusations regarding the riding of a visiting professional jockey, Mr Michael Clarke, in the fifth race on Saturday, April 23.
He also suggested that the club's racing officials were incompetent and at fault in not taking appropriate action in this context.
The club has a team of five professional Stipendiary Stewards with, between them, more than 69 years of experience in the stewarding of flat racing.
These officials are not only experienced but are also very conscientious, very capable, and very dedicated to their job.
They have the benefit of seeing every race that is run in Hong Kong and of having a close knowledge of the styles of riding of the different jockeys involved and the past form of all the horses.
They also had, on this occasion, the benefit of questioning Michael Clarke about his riding in the race concerned directly after that race had finished.
Obviously they are not infallible, no group of Stipendiary Stewards would ever claim to be so, nor I hope would any journalist; however they are certainly not incompetent or negligent in their duties as Mr Wadey suggests.
Moreover, in this particular instance, I am convinced myself that the action that they took was entirely appropriate.
I do not profess to be an expert race reader but I do invariably view the films for any race over which there has been controversy, and I view these in company with the Director of Racing, Mr Philip Johnston; an official who has himself had 25 years of experience as a Stipendiary Steward or Chief Stipendiary Steward.
Like the race meeting officials I have therefore seen this particular race from six different camera angles, in normal motion and in slow motion, and with the opportunity to replay each section of the race many times. Having done this I have no doubt in my own mind that in this instance Mr Wadey's judgment is at fault and that his accusations and innuendoes are without justification.
In view of the very serious and unwarranted accusations he has made, both against Mr Michael Clarke and against club officials, the club is willing to arrange a special showing of all the films of this race to any audience of journalists and to explain to that audience why the Race Meeting Panel was fully justified in deciding that there had been no running or riding offence in this instance.
MAJOR GENERAL G.H. WATKINS Chief Executive The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club