Coetzee finds 'back-up' role can be rewarding

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2008, 12:00am

There's not a lot wrong with being the 'back-up' to champion jockey Douglas Whyte - ask Felix Coetzee.

Coetzee chimed in again yesterday with two winners for John Size in Whyte's absence through suspension - Liberal's Knight and Real Special continuing and even improving his high strike rate for the yard despite being regarded as the second-pick rider.

The two men have ridden all of championship-leading Size's 34 winners this season, but Whyte's strike rate of 18 from 90 as first-choice rider for the stable is starting to look a little pale next to Coetzee's tally of 16 wins from just 70 rides.

'Sometimes things can just work out that way, but thanks to John Size, anyway, or I don't know how my season would be going,' said Coetzee, who is lying fifth on the table with 22 victories.

Real Special was a little unusual for Size in that he was stepping the three-year-old up to 1,800m in the Jebsen Fines Handicap at just his fourth start in a race.

'I guess that isn't normally my style, but the horse gave every indication he was wanting the trip. He's only small but he has got a good stride on him and he is very tough for such an inexperienced racehorse,' Size said after Real Special dug deep to fend off a challenge from Danesis (Brett Prebble) when that horse looked to have his measure.

Coetzee had a few difficulties getting Real Special to relax in the early stages during the long run down the back straight from the 1,800m start, so he was full of praise for the way the gelding fought on, too.

'He had every reason to get beaten today. I was worried before the race that he wouldn't get cover down the back and that's exactly what happened and he got keen,' Coetzee said. 'Then when I finally did get in, it was time to come out again, but he kept finding and that was a terrific win for a young horse.'

Liberal's Knight's convincing earlier victory for the pair in the Casio Handicap on the dirt simply reiterated what a sharp galloper he is on the all-weather.

The six-year-old was having his sixth start over the all-weather 1,200m and has yet to miss the first two placings, registering three wins and three seconds.

'It's the only surface where he has won so far but with his rating up in the 90s, there just aren't many opportunities to run on it,' said Size.