12/03/2008 12:00AM

Australian group won't honor Hong Kong ban


The Hong Kong Jockey Club has reacted angrily to the decision of Australia's Racing New South Wales not to recognize the 30-month suspension it slapped on jockey Chris Munce for his involvement in the notorious "tips-for-bets bribery" scandal for which Munce has recently completed a 20-month prison term in Hong Kong.

Released from jail in October, Munce was hit by the Hong Kong Jockey Club on Dec. 1 with the suspension, which was backdated to March 1, 2007, the day he entered prison, meaning that he is ineligible to ride through Aug. 31, 2009. As both the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Racing New South Wales are members of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, it was assumed that Racing New South Wales would honor the ban.

On Wednesday, however, Racing New South Wales informed the Hong Kong organization that it would not honor the suspension because it is not a party to Article 10 of the International, Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering which covers the offense of which Muncie was found guilty.

Hong Kong officials differ on that point, stating that Racing New South Wales is a member of the Australian Racing Board, which is a signatory to the article in question.

Munce was charged with providing information for money to outside persons on horses he was riding in 34 races at Sha Tin and Happy Valley Racecourses between December 2005 and July 2006. After pleading guilty, he was convicted in the District Court of the Hong Kong Administrative Region for conspiracy to accept advantages contrary to section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

This is not the first time that one jurisdiction has failed to reciprocate another jurisdiction's suspension. Last year when the British Racing Authority suspended Kieren Fallon for his alleged involvement in race-fixing, the Irish rider continued to ply his trade in both Ireland and France, as neither the Irish Turf Club nor France-Galop recognized the British ban. The difference in the two cases is that Munce was convicted before his Hong Kong ban, while Fallon, ultimately exonerated of the charges against him, was suspended in Britain while his trial was in progress.