Delpech exit to deplete riding ranks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2008, 12:00am

The Jockey Club riding ranks are edging back towards a crisis of numbers with Anthony Delpech deciding to return to South Africa following today's Gold Cup fixture at Sha Tin.

Delpech (pictured) said he had been considering his position for some time but a rash of suspensions this season has meant he has missed 22 of the 44 meetings run so far - landing 15 winners - and the retirement of Vengeance Of Rain finally decided his future direction.

'It has been very tough to get going at all this season and with so many days of suspension opportunities here have become few and far between, in the last year anyway,' Delpech said. 'I did think about leaving last year but I hung in mainly because of Vengeance Of Rain. But now that he's retired, I think it's time to move on.

'There's no sour taste for me - Hong Kong has been great for me but things do come to an end. It's given me the best horse I think I'll ever ride, some incredible moments and Hong Kong people have been fantastic. But I don't really see a light at the end of the tunnel as far as opportunities go.'

Delpech has ridden 135 winners in Hong Kong since his arrival in 2003 and won over HK$150 million in stakes. His victories include a Hong Kong Derby, Gold Cup, QE II Cup, Champions & Chater Cup and Hong Kong Cup on Vengeance Of Rain but his most famous win will always remain the Dubai Sheema Classic last year. 'I've always said that Hong Kong racing brought the highest highlights of my career and Dubai was certainly that, but my whole association with the horse [and the great people who own him] for three years was just a magical experience,' Delpech said.

Delpech's departure comes hard on the heels of Shane Dye's return to Australia last week and, with Christophe Soumillon due to finish his club contract after today's Sha Tin meeting, Licensing Committee secretary Kim Kelly conceded yesterday that there was some danger of a jockey shortage.