Doleuze delighted to be back on Ba Ba
The wheel of fortune has turned again for Good Ba Ba and the champion miler will be reunited with jockey Olivier Doleuze for the coming season.
Doleuze was Good Ba Ba's partner during his clean sweep of the Group One miles in the 2007-08 season under trainer Andreas Schutz. The Frenchman won eight of his 13 rides on the gelding - four of them Group Ones - before he was unceremoniously dumped last year after Good Ba Ba opened the term with two defeats.
Christophe Soumillon took over as Good Ba Ba won a second Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile and Stewards Cup before he, too, was beaten at the seven-year-old's final two starts last season.
Owner John Yuen Se-kit has a long history of quirky changes with his horses and made the shock decision to move Good Ba Ba from Schutz to Derek Cruz this month, despite the horse having risen to the position of the world's top-rated miler under the German trainer.
The only reasons proffered for the move were 'bad fung shui' and a wish to support Cruz as the trainer has been going through a quiet time.
Now Doleuze's return as the gelding's partner, after a lunch meeting with the owner yesterday to discuss the situation, is almost as surprising.
'I was very upset when I lost the ride last year,' Doleuze said. 'I did nothing wrong and felt very let down after all the success we had enjoyed together and I know I said then that I would never ride for Mr Yuen again. But the past is past and I want to be professional about this,' he said after Yuen assured him he would have the ride for the full season.
'Good Ba Ba is one of the best horses I have ever ridden, a champion, and it is hard to say no to riding a horse who has been so good to me and has been such a great horse. He is the kind of horse you wait all your life to find.
'Of course, Good Ba Ba is getting older and Andreas did such a fine job with him that there will be a lot of pressure on Derek and myself to keep getting the same results. But I'm looking forward to riding Good Ba Ba again and I think he should have one more good season in him for Derek - he has been well handled so far and that will help.'
Doleuze said he had not been ready to accept the ride on a race-by-race basis because Good Ba Ba's first two assignments for the preparation were going to be tough again in the Sha Tin Trophy under handicap conditions and the International Mile Trial, which is set weights with allowances.
'His programme will be the same as last year, which means that when he runs first-up he will have a big weight to carry and even in the Mile Trial he will have the maximum weight,' the jockey explained.
'So this is not easy at the top level and he might be beaten again. And I was concerned that - like last year - if Good Ba Ba was beaten in those races, I could be doing all the preparation work for someone else and get replaced when he gets to the Hong Kong Mile, which is his major target. But Mr Yuen has assured me I can ride Good Ba Ba all season.'
Doleuze said the gelding's programme after the Hong Kong Mile would again include the Stewards' Cup in January, a race he will be seeking to win for the third year running.
And Yuen has already flagged the likelihood of a trip to Dubai for the Duty Free in March in preference to dropping back in distance for the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400 metres) in which he was beaten last year.