The Jockey Club had hoped to allow some more fans on course for Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby, but a risk analysis has ruled it out.
The club announced on Monday night that it will retain the current restrictions – with only key personnel, staff, owners and voting members with seasonal tables permitted to attend the races – for at least two more weeks.
The news comes in the wake of the Hong Kong government implementing a 14-day quarantine period for people arriving in the city from places like the United States, Ireland and Britain as the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate.
Members and fans had been putting pressure on the Jockey Club to open up attendance for the prestigious race, but it is simply not an option in the current environment.
“We had another review of the risk situation to push ahead with an increase of attendance, unfortunately we came to the conclusion that it’s too early for the Derby,” Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
“If you look now at the number of cases that have been imported from overseas and especially now with 50,000-100,000 people rushing back now from different countries to come back to Hong Kong, this is a new risk situation.
“We cannot, at the moment, really take the risk to widen attendance because we really don’t know how many cases we will import.
“Under the circumstances, we agree with the government that further opening will have to be delayed for at least two weeks to look at the secondary impact which comes from this. I hope
for the understanding of our fans.
“We will have discussions with licensed people too about how we can further strengthen our bubble so that nothing happens here. It is a real concern.
“We’ve had a very systematic risk assessment, if we feel we cannot proceed or even dial back, then we will do it. I don’t think we will have to dial back what we have done from last weekend, but I think further expansion is a risk we would not like to take.
“You have to have the agility to make changes if necessary.”
In any case, this is going to be a Derby like no other.
Already the international jockeys booked are out – Tommy Berry, Brett Prebble and Jamie Spencer were set to make the trip – meaning that only Hong Kong-based riders will take part.
The ranks are already thin, but with Dylan Mo Hin-tung and Alfred Chan Ka-hei suspended, there will be just 17 jockeys available on Sunday.
That is suboptimal – the Jockey Club would prefer at least 18 riders available for a weekend
meeting at Sha Tin with fields of 14 – but given the global climate, it will have to do.
These are unprecedented times, but the show will go on.