Wednesday night's racing program at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong has been called off due to ongoing civil unrest, leaving horsemen scrambling to find alternative plans for horses they had entered.
The races were cancelled by Hong Kong Jockey Club officials out of fear protesters might compromise the safety of fans, HKJC staff and the horses.This is the first time after months of public demonstrations protesting new policies by the government of mainland China that horse racing has been affected.
According to published reports, the decision to cancel was made in part because Hong Kong Bet, one of the horses entered on Wednesday, is owned by Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a pro-establishment politician who has defended indiscriminate physical attacks on protesters. Protesters demanded HKJC officials revoke Junius Ho's Jockey Club membership, but they declined. They did ask the owner to scratch his horse from Wednesday's but he reportedly was insistent that Hong Kong Bet be allowed to run.
“Our concerns are tied to potential social unrest in the vicinity tonight, the very real threat of a disturbance or possible violence at Happy Valley Racecourse, and uncertainty regarding transportation in and around Happy Valley and Causeway Bay for racegoers, jockeys and employees and horses entering or leaving the racecourse throughout the evening,” an HKJC spokesperson said.
“This is a very difficult and most unfortunate decision to make, but public safety is of paramount importance to the Club. We hope the racing community and the Hong Kong public will understand our reasons for doing so.”
Leading trainer John Moore expressed surprise at the cancellation, telling the South China Morning Post: “I thought racing would go through because it's charitable and it's important to Hong Kong to keep things going smoothly, I didn't think anything was going to happen to racing.”
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