Coetzee out to make it a Special swansong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 December, 2008, 12:00am

Outstanding jockey Felix Coetzee bids farewell at Sha Tin today after a long and distinguished career and he should get his winning exit on the appropriately named Special Days in the Kowloon Tong Club Challenge Cup (1,800m).

After 643 winners, so many feature race successes and an unforgettable association with champion sprinter Silent Witness, Coetzee returns to his native South Africa tomorrow and it is indeed a special day.

And reuniting Coetzee with the John Size-trained five-year-old today looks a winning move from the reigning premier trainer, with the jockey ready to give one more masterclass in on-pace riding before he leaves, perhaps for ever.

While champion jockey Douglas Whyte has not made any mistakes on Special Days, his record shows in black and white that the gelding probably goes best for Coetzee, who has racked up three wins and two placings from six rides on the galloper.

Size has taken his time about getting Special Days racing beyond a mile as the gelding has often been guilty of going too keenly in his races in the past, but he has always shaped like 1,800m will suit and he is bred that way, too.

At his most recent start, Special Days was tardy at the start and Whyte was forced to settle him in midfield, instead of his usual prominent role, in a moderately run race won by Quick Touch.

Unsuited by the tempo, the son of Keeper settled better than usual then applied himself well in the run home, cutting a couple of lengths back off the leading horses over 1,600m.

With just 117 pounds today, he should be back into a forward role with a clean break, and the 1,800m start will allow plenty of time to work up steadily from his wide gate, rather than having to be bustled.

Special Days has shown that once he gets forward, it is a role in which both he and Coetzee excel and he can be tough to run down.

Many of his main dangers will give him both a start and weight today.

The John Moore-trained Medico (Darren Beadman) looks a serious danger, but he is the only horse drawn outside Special Days and the more ambiguous nature of his running patterns can make that draw more of an issue.

He can go forward or back, though he has been more impressive as a chaser, but he is unlikely to push on and cross as Specials Days might, and that means looking to slot in from cover in a race where the speed might not be all that strong.

Only Flying Tamari, Hail The Storm and recent newcomer Royal Pegasus race forward, but none could really be called a regulation leader.

Run on horses like Best Friend (Eric Saint-Martin) and Gem Of Chiu Ton (Howard Cheng Yue-tin) are racing well and command serious respect, but whether they get the tempo to suit remains the question, while Fearless (Douglas Whyte) is also in form but has his share of weight coming back in grade.

The number of years Felix Coetzee, who bids farewell today after racking up 643 winners, has lived in Hong Kong: 16

The South African is the only jockey to have got the best out of Special Days, having won three times from six rides: 50%