Over HK$25 million was refunded to punters after stewards determined that Kowloon East Star was not afforded a fair start in the Class Four Lily Handicap (1,000m) at Sha Tin on Saturday.

A $7.90 chance when the gates opened, Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s galloper – who normally races on the speed – was slow away under Ruan Maia and settled behind midfield before crossing the line in ninth.

“Stewards found that when the start was delayed momentarily as a result of Flying Season being fractious in the barriers, Kowloon East Star – which was being assisted by a starting gate handler – had a blindfold applied for longer than it otherwise would have,” the stewards’ report reads.

“Then as the gates opened, Kowloon East Star still had the blindfold applied before being removed just after the start was effected. This resulted in Kowloon East Star, which normally races in a forward position, being slow to begin and losing a number of lengths.

“As the stewards formed the view that the blindfold was applied to Kowloon East Star as the start was effected and having regard to the horse’s normal racing pattern, they ruled that Kowloon East Star had not been afforded a fair start and accordingly the horse was declared a non-runner.”

The race was taken out by the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Glenealy Generals, while Ting and Maia had some joy elsewhere on the card.

Maia partnered Richard Gibson’s Right Honourable to victory at any old odds in the first section of the Class Four Daisy Handicap (1,200m), while Ting took out the opener with Divine Era.

Divine Era led for all but the first 200m or so of the Class Five Azalea Handicap (1,400m) under Karis Teetan, with the Hong Kong International Sale graduate breaking through for his first win at start 10.

“At the sale, I thought ‘this is a really good horse’, but he’s been a bit disappointing. To still get a win is OK,” Ting said.

Teetan went onto bookend the card, taking out the Class Two Rose Handicap (1,600m) aboard Tony Cruz’s California Ten to round out proceedings.

Romp to Victory

Miracle Victory made it back-to-back wins in the second section of the Class Four Daisy Handicap (1,200m), leaving trainer David Hayes wondering if he may have underestimated his charge.

Miracle Victory returned from a lengthy lay-off to hand Luke Currie his first Hong Kong winner as a $22 chance last month and was better again second-up under Jerry Chau Chun-lok.

Chau settled the three-year-old behind leader Encore in the run before easing him off the rail turning for home, with the gelding sticking on nicely in the straight to defeat Yip’s Trust Me by half a length.

“He’s done a great job this season as a gelding, we’ve always had a good opinion of him,” said Hayes said, who moved to 25 wins for the season and sits in a clear sixth in the trainers’ premiership.

“Leading into today I thought the favourite [Golden Empire] might be too good for us. For him to beat him, I might have underestimated him.

“As a two-year-old colt, when it got tough he just gave up. Now, he really puts in. He’s quite a genuine horse.”

Chau went onto ring up a double thanks to Skyey Supreme’s victory in the Class Four Cineraria Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track and he now has 20 victories for the campaign.

It wasn’t all beer and skittles for Chau, however, the 21-year-old hit with a two-meeting ban and a HK$67,500 fine for careless riding aboard Jumbo Fortune, his fifth suspension for that offence this season.

Another Covid scare

Another Jockey Club work rider has tested preliminary positive to Covid-19, with a member of David Hall’s stable currently in isolation.

The case came to light late on Friday night, with Hall and the rest of his stable staff since testing negative.

Difficult day for punters at Sha Tin as massive outsiders Texas Moon and Right Honourable shine

The situation comes a week after a member of the Chris So Wai-yin yard became the first person inside the “racing bubble” to test positive for the virus, with the Jockey Club continuing to race in closed-door mode with only those crucial to the running of the meetings allowed on track.

Meanwhile, the Jockey Club has decided to temporarily close its clubhouses in Happy Valley, Sha Tin and Beas River, as well as catering premises at Happy Valley racecourse on non race days, for two weeks from Sunday evening because of the “rapidly worsening Covid-19 situation”.

In a statement, the club said it had made the decision “to protect its employees and members”.