Coetzee takes a final bow before his legion of fans

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

It may have been an emotional day for Felix Coetzee, riding at Sha Tin for the final time after 16 years, but it was an especially poignant moment for one fan who presented the South African horseman with a going-away souvenir.

Woody Leung, 36, worked his way around security personnel to present a hand-made montage of Felix Coetzee photos to his hero, and was thrilled at the warm response the champion gave him in return.

Leung said Coetzee had given him the thrill of a lifetime when he landed the Group One Sprinters' Stakes (1,200m) at Nakayama in Japan in October, 2005.

'I think I'm Felix's number one fan and I flew to Japan to support him and Silent Witness,' Leung said.

'After Silent Witness won the race, which was a huge thrill for me anyway, we went down to watch the trophy presentation. I was the only person in the crowd waving a Hong Kong flag, and Felix came up to me and said 'thank you for coming to support us'.

'I was so touched by that, it was unbelievable,' Leung said, again looking a bit moist in the eyes as he relived the special moment.

'He's always been my favourite jockey, not only because he is such a top-class jockey but because he is so honest.

'He's been riding here for 16 years, he's won more than 600 races, and I think he's the most honest jockey in Hong Kong.

'I'm going to miss him so much.'

Coetzee did a lap of honour on board his final mount, Fly Me To The Moon, and later went out among the fans to shake hands and say 'thank you'.

The fans were also remembered in his final sign off. Without them, he reminded us, there is no racing game.