Mr Consistency reaches grand old age of 49 and he's still going strong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2008, 12:00am

An early happy birthday wish to Felix Coetzee, who falls one year short of his half-century on Friday.

Coetzee has been riding in devastating form, although it's impossible to remember a time when he wasn't riding well. He is racing's Mr Consistency.

Last weekend, the South African master horseman was at it again, landing the two big races of the day and two others as well, to bring up his second four-timer in the space of a fortnight.

He also had a treble on January 1 and doubles on January 27 and 30, with one stray winner along the way giving him a total of 17 since New Year's Day. He's now equal third with Darren Beadman with 33 wins on the jockeys' premiership, trailing only the perennial leader Douglas Whyte (62) and Brett Prebble (43).

It seems like only yesterday that Coetzee became the fifth jockey in Hong Kong to land 600 wins. In fact, the date was December 26 and that number has blown out to 618 already.

Although Coetzee is the senior citizen of the jockey ranks, he still has all the hallmarks of a young campaigner, with unflinching courage and the proverbial nerves of steel. And when those qualities are combined with his level of experience and his ability to judge pace as well or better than any of his rivals, little wonder he provides his juniors with such a formidable level of competition.

Incidentally, Coetzee's association with John Size has now hit 20 wins for the season, quite remarkable considering he's the second-stringer to Whyte for the four-time premier handler.

But with a spate of suspensions hindering his momentum, the Durban Demon has ridden 'only' 22 for Size, making the margin of merit between the number one and two jobs almost indistinguishable.

The man who will be forever remembered as the only winning rider of the great Silent Witness remains a cranky perfectionist, who sets high standards and doesn't let himself off lightly on the odd occasion when he doesn't get it right.

And for the junior brigade of local jockeys who look up to the leading internationals for inspiration, Coetzee is a heartening reminder of the falseness of an old aphorism - nice guys don't have to run last.