Brilliant Coetzee chalks up milestone on Special day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2007, 12:00am

South African ace 'just trying to ride as many winners as I can'

The brilliant South African Felix Coetzee added another notable achievement to his long list of them when he gave a copybook display at Sha Tin on appropriately named Special Days to rack up win number 600 in Hong Kong racing.

Coetzee will always hold a special place as the permanent partner of the great Silent Witness and he has already ensured his name will be in the record books for many years to come as one of the most prolific winners here.

He finished the day with a double, after steering home the David Ferraris-trained Firm Offer in the final event, placing him on 601 career wins, the second-highest tally from an active jockey.

Coetzee remains fifth on the all-time winners list behind Douglas Whyte (955), Tony Cruz (946), Gary Moore (694) and Basil Marcus (671), and conceded he had a bit of work to do to elevate himself further.

'Basil's still a fair way in front of me yet,' said Coetzee, who admitted that he would probably pay more attention to such milestones at a later stage of his life.

'It's one of those things. I guess it's nice to achieve the 600 wins but I don't think much about something like that right now. I'm still riding, I'm still in the thick of it and trying to ride as many winners as I can and all the winners are important.'

The John Size-trained four-year-old Special Days certainly produced a performance to mark the occasion, taking a perfect ride from Coetzee in the Ma On Shan Handicap (1,600m) and turning it into a cakewalk as he trounced impressive last-start winner Danesis by three and a half lengths. The inexperienced gelding has won two of his six outings now, despite the fact he continues to have a few problems with the start of his races, but both Coetzee and Size believe he is headed the right way.

'Special Days was pretty impressive after getting a bit keen, he just kept running,' Size said.

'He is slowly improving at the start but at least he's getting out of the gates well enough to put himself into the race since we put the blinkers on him.'

Coetzee said that Special Days' barrier manners had contributed to him pulling in the early part, despite the good tempo of the race.

'He just missed it a little bit and I chased him up and he got a bit keen,' the rider said. 'But once I checked him he came back for me and I couldn't have been happier in the run. I took my time about really going for him but, when I did, he stretched out beautifully. He's learning all the time and with the speed he's got, he just looks ideal at a mile at this stage.'

Coetzee wound up the day with the very consistent six-year-old Firm Offer dropping back to a more comfortable grade for his fifth victory, though surprisingly his first beyond 1,000m and the first since April, 2005.

'David said the horse's form was all in Class Two so coming back down today he was pretty confident he would run well if he got the breaks in the race. So I rode him for a bit of luck and it came,' said Coetzee of the gelding, who holds a soft spot in his trainer's heart.

'He's just been a terrific horse to the stable. He's had nine seconds as well, some of them by very close margins, and earned more than $5.6 million in prize money so he's really done his job,' Ferraris said

On a high

Felix Coetzee has racked up this many career wins after landing a double on Special Days and Firm Offer: 601