Officials at the Hong Kong Jockey Club took the highly unusual step of cancelling Wednesday evening’s Happy Valley fixture “in the view of the imminent threat to safety of racegoers, jockeys and employees and to the welfare of racehorses.”
The release noted that a “thorough risk assessment” was run before the decision to cancel.
In a brief release on their website, the Club reported that it has been monitoring the situation in Hong Kong closely, a clear reference to the ongoing political unrest in the Special Administrative Region.
“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,” a Club 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,” the spokesperson emphasised.
According to the South China Morning Post, the situation reached a boiling point Wednesday surrounding the participation of Hong Kong Bet, a horse owned in partnership by Junius Ho, a pro-establishment lawmaker. The Post added that representatives of the Club made contact with Ho in an attempt to discuss the situation, but the owner was committed to running his horse.
According to SCMP, the meeting is the first to be lost to political and civil unrest.
Perennial leading trainer John Moore expressed his surprise about the 11th-hour cancellation to the 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,” Moore told SCMP. “But I can understand the decision. With the turmoil going on in Hong Kong, we’ve got to protect the safety of all concerned–not only the jockeys but the horses and the racing public.”