Coetzee will be missed as a true professional in every sense of the word

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 December, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong racing will miss Felix Coetzee. The 49-year-old South African returned to Cape Town on Saturday night after 16 years in Hong Kong, most famously as the riding part of the record-breaking C team with Tony Cruz.

It's hard to accurately assess the benefit of a jockey like Coetzee to the racing game here, because jockeys like him are just so rare. He was hard-working, professional, respectful of authority and brought great integrity to the role. If he was suspended for careless riding and disagreed with the findings of the stewards, that disagreement would be communicated in an appropriate way, or not at all.

The moist-eyed, parting remarks of ardent fan Willie Leung, 36, on Saturday night said much about his idol. Coetzee's 30 seconds of consideration for Leung in Japan in 2005, after Silent Witness won the Sprinters Stakes, gave the fan a moment he'll treasure for life. Apart from everything else, as wonderful as his contribution has been, Coetzee (pictured) should be adorned for teaching the fans to believe in the integrity of the racing game.

Leung's simple but heart-felt sentiment mirror's this column's view of the magnificent Coetzee era: 'A great jockey and very honest - I am [we are] going to miss him.'