Stable boys and other Jockey Club staff involved in the handling of horses will soon be subject to random drug tests.
The decision to extend the drug tests, which currently only cover jockeys and apprentices, comes on the heels of a stewards' inquiry earlier this month.
It found that a winning racehorse, which tested positive for the drug ketamine, was contaminated by his mafoo.
The horse, Shahjee, was disqualified and the other runners in the race lifted one place.
Follow-up drug tests on the mafoo confirmed he was on ketamine. He has since been sacked and "warned off the course," according to the stewards. The mafoo was not named.
Horse owner Syed Pervez Hussain originally lodged an intention to appeal against the disqualification, but later withdrew the request.
"I'm pleased to learn of Hussain's understanding of the situation and his decision not to proceed with his appeal," Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said yesterday.
He said the case clearly shows the abuse of ketamine or other so-called recreational drugs, especially among the younger generation, is no longer just a social problem.
"It can also have implications for the racing industry at large, and we have to take necessary actions to address this issue," Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
The club has already introduced courses for stable staff to enhance their awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.
In addition, random drug testing will be extended to all horse handlers.
"I can tell you that such testing will come into force in the very near future, and I hope that these strengthened checks will have a deterrent effect on anyone who may be exposed to drug problems," Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
Meanwhile, he said the steady growth in turnover suggests the Jockey Club may enjoy its best season in more than a decade.
"With this strong support and the continued economic revival, we look likely to register quite a healthy increase in total racing turnover at the end of this season - though not necessarily in our net gross margin after tax and duty payments."
Since late November the club has been recording HK$1 billion turnover at most weekend meetings, Engelbrecht- Bresges said.
This suggests that total betting for the year may exceed HK$82 billion, a 9 percent increase on last season's HK$75 billion.
Thursday, May 19, 2011