Woods confident of case after issuing writ over loss of licence
Former Newmarket trainer Sean Woods, who last month launched a legal action against the Hong Kong Jockey Club, has outlined to the Racing Post the reasons why he has taken the measure and insists he has a strong chance of being successful.
Woods, who rode over jumps in Britain in the 1980s, moved to Hong Kong to train in 2002 and saddled 279 winners and won nearly HK$239 million (£23.7m/€27.9m) in prize-money.
However, he did not have his licence renewed in 2016 after failing to meet the HKJC's criteria of seasonal winners for the third time.
Woods, along with David Ferraris, Michael Chang and Andreas Schultz, who also lost his licence, moved to the club's Olympic Stables after the 2008 Beijing games, but it was not a success.
The trainer, who plans to relaunch his career in Newmarket next year, argues the switch put him and the other three trainers at a disadvantage from their counterparts at the main racecourse stables at Sha Tin as their new base was inferior, resulting in their dip in form.
Woods claims the HKJC breached contract by failing to provide up-to-scratch facilities - notably an equine pool, a tunnel to the track and access to raceday stables, which he says were promised - while building work close to the Olympic Stables had a detrimental effect on the condition of his horses.
He also claims he did not receive a fair hearing and procedure was not followed when he lost his licence, and during the appeal.
Woods said: "We're extremely confident about what they have to answer, but the most important thing is the misrepresentation because we wouldn't have moved to the Olympic Stables for love nor money, and it had a big adverse effect on all four of us trainers.
"All four of us asked to move back to the main stables after a few years and it was something that was ongoing on a daily basis; it wasn't something they weren't aware of and couldn't readdress. It's a very strong case. Four trainers don't suddenly become useless.
"They were beautiful stables and there was nothing wrong with them apart from not being serviced like the ones on the other side, which they promised they'd do, only to find they started building a sports institute 50 yards from us, so the horses had pile-driving for two and a half years. They stood there and shook - cups of tea would fall off the table it was so bad."
He continued: "You imagine the disadvantage we had where we had to put a horse on a box 50 minutes before a race, travel ten minutes so his adrenalin is pumping in 40C heat. Then put him straight back on the box after the race and take him back to our stables. The opposition would walk out of an air-conditioned unit, race, be washed down and walk back within five minutes of the race.
"Not only did we have a disadvantage going into the race, we had a bigger disadvantage coming out of the race. It was a constant decline, but we can stand up and fight our corner very strongly."
Measures were taken this season to improve Olympic Stables, which the 51-year-old Woods believes explain the upturn in fortunes of Ferraris, who saddled 16 winners last season but is already up to 28 for the 2016-17 campaign.
"You can see the results of David Ferraris, who was struggling to meet the criteria of winners, but this year is having a great season with the new pool and racing stables being given back," he added. "They've done everything we've been fighting for for the last five or six years, so the evidence is there.
"I'm going backwards and forwards from Newmarket to Hong Kong. I'll look to re-establish myself in the training ranks in Newmarket next year, but I needed a whole year to get this done and dusted, and it's affected me greatly."
Woods, who won the Royal Lodge with the Frankie Dettori-ridden Atlantis Prince in 2000, stressed any comeback would need to be at a suitable yard, with the right staff and support from owners.
He said: "We were under a lot of strain and stress, but I had 15 good years in Hong Kong regardless of what's happened in the last six or so. I enjoyed every minute, all the winners and more than HK$200 million in prize-money; it wasn't a failure. I'm not destitute, but this is something I want to draw a line under."