ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And now the case of the current unpleasantness facing the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The club operates Happy Valley, a big Hong Kong racetrack. And last week a device was discovered buried in the turf and redolent of malicious and mysterious mischief. So mysterious that no one can figure out who put it there or precisely what the point of the thing was.
Keith Bradsher is the Hong Kong bureau chief for the New York Times and has been writing about this. And Keith Bradsher, first of all, can you describe for us what this device was that was evidently spotted at Happy Valley?
Mr. KEITH BRADSHER (Hong Kong Bureau Chief, New York Times): It was quite elaborate. It consisted of a series of plastic tubes, almost an inch in diameter, that were embedded in the turf of the racecourse. They dug a trench across the width of the course where the starting gate was going to be mounted. They put these hoses down into it. They had a series of valves connected to the hose. And then up from the hose were the launch tubes that were designed to send darts into the bellies of the horses above as they are waiting in the starting gate. And then, finally, there was a fairly sophisticated electronic control system.
SIEGEL: So somebody manipulating this system of hoses and launch tubes could have shot darts that have been to the bellies of the horses as they were in the starting gate or just coming out?
Mr. BRADSHER: That's exactly right. And the question is who. There are all kinds of theories. The police are really at a loss here to figure out who might have done such a thing. They've offered a reward of one million Hong Kong dollars, which is worth about $128,000. And so far, at least, they don't seem to have a strong lead, or if they do they're certainly being very quiet about it. But it's now been nine days since the device was discovered and there have been no quick arrests.
SIEGEL: So we don't know if this was an extremely elaborate way to fix a horse race?
Mr. BRADSHER: The police have been fairly careful and cagey about how much information they've been willing to release. For example, they have released much less information about the darts than they have about the launching a system. One possibility is that they are looking for somebody who somehow slips up and shows a knowledge of the information about the case that the police think only the original culprits would know.
SIEGEL: What do horse people there say might have happened, might have been the result if somebody had in fact fired darts under the starting gate at the beginning of a race at Happy Valley?
Mr. BRADSHER: Well, this is one of the mysteries. What were they really trying to achieve? The security director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club said that it just didn't make any sense to him. It's fairly likely that the horses would have noticed if suddenly there's compressed air going off under the feet of one or more horses. And it would have been very hard to run a race under those kinds of conditions. You could have had the horses rearing or you could have had possibly the jockeys notice.
The big question here is would it be possible to take out just one horse, or maybe several horses - all the favorites - and then place very big bets on the other horses and still have a hope that the race would be run in a way that the bets would be paid off? If there are darts hanging out of the bellies of the lead horses or there are darts found in the grass after the race, you'd think probably the race would be cancelled and the people's money would be handed back. So nobody has really figured out exactly what the plan is here. And as the security director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club put it, until you can understand the motive, it's going to be hard to find the culprits.
SIEGEL: Yes, it seems the questions remain - who did it, why did they do it, and what exactly is it that they intended to do?
Mr. BRADSHER: Exactly.
SIEGEL: Well, Keith Bradsher, thank you very much for talking with us about it.
Mr. BRADSHER: Thank you. My pleasure.
SIEGEL: That's Keith Bradsher, Hong Kong bureau chief of the New York Times.
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