The head of the Hong Kong Jockey Club is set to go ahead with Saturday’s races at Sha Tin and hopes to hold the National Day meeting on October 1 as well, although he is not ruling out a repeat of Wednesday’s last-minute cancellation to avoid any potentially chaotic disruption by anti-government protesters in future. Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges told the Post on Thursday that the scrapping of the Happy Valley race meeting was a one-off because of safety concerns sparked by the threat of protests against outspoken pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu and his horse, Hong Kong Bet, which was due to run on Wednesday. Ho, who has become a hate figure for the protest movement, announced a day after the cancellation that he and the co-owners of the horse had decided to suspend it from races altogether until the end of the ongoing social unrest for the sake of the city’s “long-term stability and tranquillity”. Engelbrecht-Bresges said the reasons for the drastic action taken by the club “were not specific to racing, they were very specific to a situation”. “At this stage, we have no indication there is any concern about not going ahead with Saturday’s race meeting,” he said. “But if we encounter another significant risk when it comes to running a race meeting, we will act in a similar way. Safety has to come first. “We hope it is not the case, there were very specific reasons we came to this decision on Wednesday and hopefully we won’t be put in the same situation again. You don’t do it lightly.” As for the National Day race meeting, given the possibility of protesters disrupting events to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Jockey Club chairman said risk assessment was under way. “We will have to take it closer to the day, but at this stage we are cautiously optimistic we will run the meeting and not have major disruptions,” he said. Engelbrecht-Bresges welcomed Ho’s offer to withdraw his horse from racing. “When you look at the situation, his horse running was a trigger point for certain activities,” he said. “The fact this horse won’t be running until this is over, we appreciate that he sees this as helpful and hopefully with this decision Hong Kong can enjoy racing again.” A statement issued by Ho read: “After a discussion with the co-owners, we have decided to suspend Hong Kong Bet from racing until the social unrest stops, for the sake of the healthy development of horse racing in Hong Kong and the city’s long-term stability and tranquillity.” It added: “The horse is innocent, we shouldn’t deprive Hong Kong Bet’s right to run because of its outstanding performance. We are talking about human rights every day. But animals also have their fundamental rights.” The racing schedule had been unaffected by the social chaos engulfing the city in recent months, but that changed when Hong Kong Bet was slated to run. A Jockey Club source said messages posted online showed that protesters planned to besiege the course at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, targeting Ho’s horse. “We were concerned about the impact on traffic and the safety of staff, punters and horses,” the source said. There were also concerns about other potential protests around Causeway Bay, which would have affected people getting to and from the races. The Jockey Club source said they were concerned about hundreds of football fans forming a human chain at Victoria Park, which is close to Happy Valley, on Wednesday and calls for those fans to move to the racetrack afterwards. The Jockey Club confirmed on Wednesday it had called Ho to talk about the situation, but from the outset he was adamant his horse would run. But Ho, in a statement posted on Facebook, said that in a telephone conversation, the head of stables “neither asked us to withdraw Hong Kong Bet from the race nor gave any hints that the night meeting might be cancelled in the event it was insisted that Hong Kong Bet run”. Asked whether the Jockey Club had asked Ho or his co-owners to withdraw Hong Kong Bet from the race on Wednesday, a spokesman refused to comment on private conversations with its stakeholders. Ho became an enemy of the protesters after he publicly defended white-clad men who attacked demonstrators and commuters in Yuen Long MTR station on July 21. Ho was filmed shaking hands with some of the men. The Jockey Club had earlier cited its attempts to remain neutral when denying a campaign to revoke Ho’s membership and withdraw Hong Kong Bet from all future races. While race meetings in Hong Kong have been abandoned before because of typhoons and equine influenza, this is the first time political and civil unrest has forced a cancellation. Meanwhile, a police source said on Thursday night that a representative of Ho informed them in the afternoon that their application for the campaign to clean up the Lennon Walls in 18 districts on Saturday would be cancelled.