Coetzee not disheartened by defeat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 December, 2008, 12:00am

Eric Saint-Martin wore the black hat in the Kowloon Tong Club Challenge Cup (1,800m) as he arrived in time to spoil the Felix Coetzee fairy tale farewell with Best Friend, but the farewell itself lived up to all that was expected.

Coetzee's mount Special Days enjoyed a nice run on the outside of the leader to the home turn and had the feature won everywhere but right on the line, where Best Friend claimed him, but, typical of Coetzee, he wasn't blaming anyone but himself.

'As we turned for home, I just let him stride up to the leader Great Land's Star and as soon as I did it, I felt I'd gone just a fraction too soon,' Coetzee said.

'He's only been beaten a short head and I think if I had waited just a little longer that would have been the difference, but it has been a special day otherwise.'

Coetzee may not have won the ninth race but was presented with a silver dish memento by the Jockey Club in recognition of so many years of great service in Hong Kong racing - and for the way he conducted himself in doing it.

The South African was the focus of all as he trotted his final mount, Fly Me To The Moon, down the straight and past the stands for one last wave to the fans.

It was a flood of emotions and memories for Coetzee as he told the media: 'I'd like to thank the Jockey Club stewards, past and present, for allowing me the privilege of riding here for 16 years.

'I'd like to thank the owners and trainers for their support, and to my friends in the jockeys room for the privilege of having known and ridden against them. I'd especially like to thank Silent Witness, Tony Cruz and Archie and Betty da Silva for an association that will go down in history.

'Thank you to John Size for making things so easy for me in the past couple of years and to Brian Kan for bringing me here in the first place. To all the media and the fans, thanks for being so kind to me over the years, and to all the horses a very big thank you because without them I wouldn't be here. And finally, thanks to my wife Janine and my family for always being behind me.

'Riding in Hong Kong has been a thrill I'll never forget.'

Saint-Martin made his day a double win on Best Friend after picking up an earlier Darren Beadman mount on Palais D'Or and continued the Frenchman's good run for the week and especially for Australian trainer David Hall.

With Brett Prebble suspended, Saint-Martin has been most of Hall's riding and landed Fair Win at Happy Valley midweek.

'It was a bit lucky today, there was nowhere to go, then they suddenly opened up and he took the gap very quickly, just in time,' Saint-Martin said. 'I know sometimes he has not been a horse who travels in his races, but I rode him on a bit shorter rein and he seemed to travel well like that.'