Jockeys deserve respect and loyalty

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 April, 2008, 12:00am

Mosse's sacking from Sacred Kingdom underlines precarious nature of the job

What are the connections of Sacred Kingdom telling the world with their astonishing decision to fire Gerald Mosse from his position as jockey on the world's number-one sprinter?

Even tough, experienced racing men who have seen the best get hired and fired are flabbergasted at this one, with Mosse being the proverbial victim of circumstances on Sacred Kingdom and the champion ultimately looking to be a good thing beaten in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup.

It's been heart-wrenching stuff for Mosse, a world-class rider with a hard-won, squeaky-clean reputation who has revelled in his association with the world's number-one sprinter. Here he was, locked up at a critical stage of the race as arch-rival Good Ba Ba flew on by in clear running down the outside to snatch victory, and absolutely nothing he could have done about it.

But while the drums were beating a long way out, telegraphing Mosse's imminent demise, the lingering thought was that surely someone - anyone - would ultimately see this was just 'one of those things' that happen in horse racing and that any horse in similar circumstances would have met the same sad fate.

Owner Sin Kang-yuk already has form on the board. He sacked Danny Nikolic, the jockey behind Sacred Kingdom's rise to prominence, after he had given the gelding every chance in his final race last season and finished fourth, when the truth was that Sacred Kingdom had gone to the races once too often.

Nikolic's contribution in not only helping educate and prepare the gelding for his debut, but to win his first five in succession, was instantly forgotten.

The reason that filtered down was that Nikolic had ridden Sacred Kingdom 'too close', an excuse which was made to look even more shabby at the gelding's next start the following term when he was one of the leaders throughout before bolting to the front 600 metres out under Mosse.

Nikolic was hung out to dry in whispers around town as having 'stopped' Sacred Kingdom. Throw enough mud and some sticks, with the knock-on effect being he could barely get a ride - any ride - when he returned for the 2007-08 term and ultimately left for Australia in a state of exasperation.

Enter Mosse, the polished Frenchman with the best big-race record of any jockey riding here. Apart from five victories at the Cathay Pacific International Races, three local Derbies and one in Europe's premier event, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Mosse is a true Group One genius who invariably delivers when the big ones are up for grabs.

Top card in the pack with conspiracy theorists is usually about race and country of origin, so Mosse always had a perception problem to overcome when the horse that beat him in the controversial race, Good Ba Ba, was ridden by a fellow Frenchman in Olivier Doleuze.

And to make matters worse for Mosse, the jockey responsible for the majority of his headaches in the home stretch, when desperate for galloping room, was Eric Saint-Martin, another compatriot.

Now it should be stated that Saint-Martin is very non-discriminatory when it comes to riding tight, but within the letter of the law. He has superb balance and control, but fails to see any good reason why he should be making it easy on any rivals to get out of a situation that was none of his making. His competitive streak is chilling, and is distributed without fear or favour.

In this race, on board Scintillation, Saint-Martin held his line and kept things sardine-can tight on his inside. He was absolutely entitled to do so and it should be noted that his mount finished fourth. Had he been able to maintain the equine barricade, he may have run third - he was doing his best by the owners and trainer of his horse, as he should.

The positive out of the fiasco is that it has thrown lightweight Howard Cheng Yue-tin an opportunity to win some of the big stuff. Cheng has never won at Group One or Group Two level, but there's no doubting his talent or consistency, as amplified by a meritorious treble at Sha Tin last Sunday.

But Cheng would not be human if he didn't harbour some trepidation about the appointment. Sure, he gets the chance to showcase his ability on a horse that's on top of the world, but there is a very significant downside. He's going to ride for connections who have shown little respect for their jockeys.

Cheng will know that five or six perfect rides will count for nothing the day things don't go according to plan. What sort of confidence does that engender?

As of last night, we understand Mosse has still not received any notification that his services for Sacred Kingdom are no longer required. We assume owner Sin would like some loyalty from his jockeys, but we might ask what has he done to deserve any?