HK 'too competitive' for Marcus
Changes in the landscape for Hong Kong club jockeys look to have claimed a surprising and high-profile first victim with the decision by South African rider Anton Marcus to depart last night.
Though he has had a slow start to the new term, Marcus had returned a personal best 55 winners last season to finish as the fifth-ranked rider in the championship with a high strike rate of winners to rides of almost 13 per cent.
'It's a decision I've made with a heavy heart. Hong Kong is such a great place to ride. It has been a privilege to ride here, but to stay here, you have to be able to perform,' Marcus (pictured) said yesterday. 'I'm leaving but I'm not going back to South Africa to ride - I'll just have a think about what I'll do next. I would never want to close the door on Hong Kong. It's been great to me, but at the moment it isn't working out.'
Marcus has ridden 148 winners in Hong Kong and took out three Group events with Goggles (Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup), Dave's Best (Juvenile Sprint Trophy) and Firebolt in the 2002 Sha Tin Vase.
That Sha Tin Vase day, May 25, 2002, also provided Marcus with another of his Hong Kong highlights in riding four winners on the programme.
Marcus also finished fifth in the rankings in season 2001-2002 with 37 winners, while his 2002-2003 season was negatively affected by a broken hand suffered in a track accident in late November 2002.
While the jockey himself would not specify his reasons for leaving, coming off a boom season that earned him a full-season licence this time around, his early departure is sure to draw attention to the changes which have made life tougher for club jockeys.
By contrast with the same time last season, there are six more riders licensed and eight stables, including three leading yards, have retained jockeys.
In addition, alterations to the system of penalties for minor riding charges were made this season in a bid to greatly reduce the time suspended jockeys would spend out of race riding. Jockeys are now receiving bans of no longer than two racing days.
That policy change has also served to narrow opportunities which had previously existed for any club jockey to get on good rides and gain momentum while rivals may have been sidelined for up to five meetings.