The juggling act the Jockey Club continues to perform when it comes to navigating the fourth wave of Covid-19 in Hong Kong was clear for all to see on Sunday when it was forced to move some of its biggest owners just hours before the meeting after a chef tested positive to the virus.
Owners who had booked into the sixth floor restaurant at Sha Tin were informed they were being moved to the fourth floor after officials were alerted to the positive test.
“We don’t take risks,” Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said in reference to the swift movement.
“We moved [the owners who booked] from the sixth to the fourth floor. We then tested all 18 staff who worked with [the chef] and they came back negative.
“It came out last Monday he went to a restaurant at Sha Tin, from there four people have tested positive.”
With just 228 people in attendence, the movement of bookings proved to be an easy exercise but it again showed the fine line the Jockey Club is treading as racing forges ahead.
Engelbrecht-Bresges has continually stressed the need to remain agile and it paid off on Sunday with little interruption to guests.
Under current restrictions, only owners with runners on the day are allowed to attend the races with one family member as a guest.
It means Wednesday’s International Jockeys’ Championship and the international races will effectively go on behind closed doors.
While they are taking every possible precaution, curveballs will continue to arise and the timing of the incident is hardly ideal heading into the Jockey Club’s biggest week of the year.
Six international riders will jet in from Europe on Monday to compete against Hong Kong’s best in the IJC after completing a series of Covid-19 tests.
In a year like no other, the international riders will compete while in a quarantine bubble, despite the fact they are riding against Hong Kong-based jockeys.
With tensions running high and more than 100 confirmed Covid-19 cases a day in Hong Kong, officials are desperate to get through the next seven days unscathed.
Sweet result for Ting
It was a sage piece of advice from the suspended Zac Purton that helped Jimmy Ting Koon-ho get the promising My Sugar over the line at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The four-year-old flashed above-average ability during his three previous starts but consistently found ways to get beaten before Ting opted to step his charge up in trip in the Class Four Middle Handicap (1,400m).
Ironically, Purton was forced to watch on from the sidelines as Karis Teetan put in the wire-to-wire effort, but Ting was thankful for the advice nonetheless.
“Today we changed the distance because after the last race, Zac said he maybe needed a little bit further,” he said.
Included in the change-up was a set of cheek pieces, which Ting believes contributed greatly to the four-length victory.
“We entered him in the 1,400m firstly, then from his work in the mornings we knew he needed something to help him because he was always very green,” he said.
“We didn’t want to put anything on that would scare him. After a while we got the cheek pieces out and let him learn in them in the mornings. It turned out he was quite good with them, so we put them on. Maybe that’s why he improved today.”
After winning off a mark of 56, Class Three now beckons for My Sugar and he looks destined for bigger and better things.
Tough odds for punters
Quinella punters who were lucky enough to jag the ninth race had reason to feel hard done by with the popular bet type paying less than the odds of the winning horse.
Despised roughie Turin Redstar ($60.80) emerged from the pack under Derek Leung Ka-chun to take out the Class Three Granville Handicap (1,650m) in what was his first victory in 20 months, beating home race favourite Party Everyday ($2.50) in the process.
While the quinella bet is incredibly popular and boasts massive pools, it returned a dividend of just $600 for a $10 investment in this instance.
Compared to other quinella dividends on the day, Golfman Star’s ($5.50) victory over Happy Tango ($12) earlier in the card returned a dividend of $396 for $10.
Turin Redstar’s breakthrough victory also marked a double for trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong, who took over the handling of the six-year-old from Peter Ho Leung at the start of the season.
Yip also tasted success earlier in the day when Antoine Hamelin booted home Crown Avenue to land his first victory in more than a year.
The double takes Yip’s total to 15 wins for the season, placing him sixth on the premiership table.
Chadwick cleared for return
Matthew Chadwick will return to racing on Wednesday night after recovering from concussion.
The 30-year-old fell from debutant Lucky Fun a week ago while racing down the Sha Tin straight after the horse clipped heels, causing him to hit the ground hard.
After passing a series of concussion tests recently, Chadwick gained approval from the Jockey Club’s chief medical officer to return to racing.
Fellow jockey Matthew Poon Ming-fai remains on the sidelines after falling off The Elites in early November and suffering chest injuries.
Poon recently returned to Sha Tin and was sighted talking to trainers during the week.
The 27-year-old indicated that he was keen to return to race riding at Sunday’s Hong Kong International Races.