Owners will not be allowed into Sunday’s race meeting as the Jockey Club enforces a full lockout in the wake of the Hong Kong government’s tough new social-distancing measures brought in to curb the resurgence of coronavirus infections.
On Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor introduced the new restrictions, which prohibits people assembling in groups of more than four while also closing leisure venues for public gatherings.
In light of the changes, the Jockey Club confirmed it will press ahead with the Sha Tin card with only stable staff, licensed persons and racing media permitted to attend while it seeks clarification from the government about the arrangements for future meetings.
“[On Friday], the government announced a new regulation prohibiting group gathering of more than four people in public places that will greatly impact our race meetings,” the Jockey Club said in a statement. “The regulation creates an ambiguity as to whether horse owners with starters can continue to attend the race meetings.
“Under this circumstance, the club may either need to suspend the race meetings or proceed without the attendance of any customers. Given that the new regulation will be effective immediately from [midnight on Saturday], the club has decided to proceed with the race meeting on March 29 without the attendance of any customers, including horse owners with starters.
“As the Sha Tin racecourse is a workplace for club stable staff, licensed persons and racing media only, the club is of the view that the race meeting under this arrangement will fully comply with the new regulation.
“The club nevertheless notes that the attendance at the racecourse and in the parade ring of the owners of starters together with the trainer and jockey when the riding instructions are given for each race is an integral part of staging a race meeting.
“In order to remove the uncertainties over the arrangements for future race meetings, the club will continue to seek clarification from the government and make further announcements.
“The club would like to thank horse owners and customers for their understanding and patience.”
The Jockey Club first introduced a partial lockout for the Lunar New Year meeting on January 27, before tightening it to the point where only staff, key personnel and owners with starters were allowed on course during a meeting. That was the arrangement in place for Sunday’s card before the new government measures were announced. It has also shut its 101 off-course betting branches to avoid people gathering in large numbers.
“The Hong Kong Jockey Club is in steadfast support of Hong Kong to address the unprecedented challenges brought by Covid-19 outbreak,” the Jockey Club statement said.
“Not only has the club implemented various precautionary measures for the protection of its employees and customers in the racecourses and other facilities, but also relentlessly collaborated with the Hong Kong government on its multiple initiatives.
“As a result of all these efforts, race meetings have been able to continue under a safe environment for the benefit of our society. That includes the significant taxation contribution to the government and the donation of HK$200 million to the community in supporting those in need including the underprivileged and the ethnic minority.”
The Jockey Club is the biggest taxpayer in Hong Kong with Wednesday night’s meeting netting HK$111 million for the government.