South African 'a great rider, so professional and one who always did it with a smile', says trainer Hill
Professional and role model were the ubiquitous adjectives for jockey Basil Marcus yesterday in reaction to the news that he was unlikely to ride again after completing his Hong Kong contract in March.
The Jockey Club's executive director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said Marcus stood as 'the model for all jockeys regarding his conduct and professionalism'.
Trainer David Hill, for whom Marcus rode over two years as a retained jockey in the early 1990s, described the South African as 'a great rider, so professional and one who always did it with a smile'. He added: 'I was champion trainer when Basil rode for me and he was such a great asset. I've known him now for many years and have always enjoyed a great relationship with Basil and his wife Debbie,' he said. 'It shocked me initially that he was quitting for good, because he is still so good and popular but when you think it through, it makes sense.'
Marcus was also retained by Ivan Allan during three seasons in the mid-1990s, partnering the likes of Oriental Express, Mr Vitality and Indigenous. Allan said yesterday that he was surprised Marcus would not continue.
'I think Basil is mad to be finishing. He still has some good years left in him yet. I don't understand why he wouldn't keep riding here a few months every year. He is still so fit and competitive,' Allan said.
'We had a great run together. Basil rode some of my best horses. He won the Derby for me on Oriental Express and rode Mr Vitality when he was Hong Kong's champion sprinter. I think the last winner he rode for me was Tajasur when he won the Chairman's Prize in 2000. We won a lot of big races together.'
Engelbrecht-Bresges added: 'Marcus has done such a tremendous job here in Hong Kong. I think he would be one of the most professional riders you could ever hope to see. He is still extremely fit and tremendously disciplined and, as he has shown this season, still riding so competitively.
'It is unfortunate that to ride in England successfully, he would have to motivate himself to drive maybe six hours for one or two rides in front of 800 people. I can understand that, after so much success in Hong Kong, he finds that difficult. His retirement will be Hong Kong's loss.'
Hill said he understood why Marcus would not pursue a career riding in England. 'I guess he could have ridden part-time there but that just wouldn't have been Basil. He's too competitive. Basil would always rather be riding than sitting in the room, so I don't think he would enjoy going around the country for two or three rides a day.'
Like Engelbrecht-Bresges, Allan emphasised the dedication of Marcus. 'He is a genuine role model for any jockey. Minimum interference, a hard worker and Basil was such a never-say-die rider. There were races that even 50 metres out I thought we couldn't win, but he refused to give up and got there,' Allan said.
'If he had two offers in one race, he would want to ride them both - that's how competitive Basil is. And on top of that, he is such a nice fellow, a truly good bloke. And an open book - Basil never had any hidden agenda.'
Above all Marcus' riding skills, Hill said, he would be remembered as a super jockey rating horses in the lead. 'Basil was a past master at front-running tactics. If he got to the lead, he was extremely difficult to get past.
'It's sad to see him pack up but I can see his point of view. My family is in America and it is hard to be away. There comes a time when you have to decide what you want more and I can see why Basil has made this choice.'