Victoire signs off in style and we'll welcome him back with open arms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2009, 12:00am

Johan Victoire bade a fond farewell on Sunday night and it's to be hoped the young Frenchman is invited back because he is made of the right stuff.

Victoire (pictured) did look a bit lost initially with the faster pace and close-knit racing patterns that are so much the signature of Hong Kong racing. But to the 21-year-old's credit, he made the required adjustments and made them quickly.

As so often happens in this quirky town, Victoire's opportunity seemed to arrive by sheer chance. Brett Doyle was stood down by stewards for failing to make the weight on Romping at Sha Tin on January 1 and then strolled up by 21/2 lengths with Victoire as understudy.

Romping's trainer, Sean Woods, was impressed and that win led to more opportunities. When Victoire called time on his first Far East tour of duty on Sunday, he'd ridden nine winners from 36 rides for Woods at a sensational strike rate of 25 per cent.

That Victoire won just one other race, for Ricky Yiu Poon-fie, should not diminish what he achieved during his short stint here. His overall figures of 10 wins from 115 rides provided a strike rate of 8.7 per cent and only six riders here go better than 8.7 per cent.

Victoire is well appreciated at home in France and this year will be elevated to number one rider with long-time leading trainer Andre Fabre. That inevitably means lots of opportunities in the Group One races and the chance to improve on his fourth place in the 2008 French jockeys' title.

With top-class European jockeys becoming harder to attract to Hong Kong, let's hope this initial success for Victoire has stimulated his desire for more.