Disgraced jockey went off the rails despite scaling the heights of racing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am

Jockey Chris Munce's career had been extraordinarily successful until it imploded with yesterday's court judgment against him over the so-called tips-for-bets scam.

Munce, 37, was born in the coastal town of Casino, in northern New South Wales, Australia, but emerged as a rising star in the jockey ranks in Brisbane.

The champion apprentice became Brisbane's champion jockey three times and eventually moved to Sydney to further his career.

His success against the nation's best riders did not come at once. In fact, his first foray linked to the Lee Freedman stable in 1992-93 was disastrous - he was beaten three times on champion Super Impose and was ultimately sacked.

A disillusioned Munce returned to Queensland to regain his confidence, and did so, but eventually the lure of the 'big smoke' got his competitive juices pumping again. This time he never looked back.

His first 'major' outside of Brisbane was the 1997 Golden Slipper Stakes - the world's richest race for two-year-olds - on Prowl, for trainer Clarry Conners. He forged a connection with the eminent trainer Gai Waterhouse and the featured race winners really started to flow.

Munce landed the 'race that stops the nation', the Melbourne Cup, in 1998 on Jezabeel, and another Golden Slipper on the champion juvenile Dance Hero in 2004, and then gained Cox Plate justice, 12 years down the track, when guiding Savabeel to victory at Moonee Valley in October 2004.

Munce's introduction to Hong Kong in 1999 mirrored what had happened in Sydney seven years earlier. Licensed as a club jockey for the third and final tranche of the 1998-99 season, Munce won only four of his 128 rides.

But when he returned to Hong Kong six years later, the difference was astounding.

Invited for three successive terms that encompassed the entire 2005-06 season, Munce won 51 of his 479 race rides, with his mounts earning HK$33.6 million in prize money. He finished third to Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble on the jockeys' premiership, and was on his way to the airport to head home to his wife, Kathy, and their children in Sydney on July 3 when ICAC officers intervened.

Munce's reputation in the racing industries of both Australia and Hong Kong could not have been more at odds with the murky headlines that now surround his name.

Cheerful, reliable, professional, always trying his best, driven to succeed, yet modest in victory - this is how most racing professionals would likely recall Munce.

Ever the optimist and mistakenly declaring that the court would vindicate him, Munce had accepted rides for the Canterbury Park races in Sydney tonight and had a booking for the grand weight-for-age warrior Desert War in tomorrow's Group One Chipping Norton Stakes.