Just like old the days as Coetzee flies the famous colours
Felix Coetzee wasted little time bouncing straight back into a familiar role at his first meeting for the season, piloting Crown Witness to win for Tony Cruz in the colours made famous by former champion Silent Witness.
It was the re-uniting of a tried and proven formula that did the trick for the new arrival and, mixed with a touch of birthday luck for owner Archie da Silva, there was only one result possible for the horse sporting the black and green.
'Tony rang me when I was still in South Africa to tell me this horse was going to be entered and asked if I would ride it and, being Archie's birthday, I knew he was going to be well primed for a strong run,' Coetzee said.
'It was a thrilling win for the connections and a terrific feeling to be back winning in those colours after so many good memories.
'Archie told me in the parade ring that I had to give him a birthday present, so I was very glad to oblige on this horse, who really fought hard to come back and win.'
The lightly raced three-year-old was well supported to start $31 favourite and, despite a few anxious moments in the run to the post, would have been the toast of birthday celebrations last night.
'Tony said to lead or just ride him wherever he felt comfortable, and he rolled along nicely early,' Coetzee said. 'When they turned for home, however, he took a while to hit top gear and the other horse had clearly headed him at the 200 metres, but he kept on finding with his big action and did very well to peg them back.
'I've got no doubt he'll run a mile and you just never know where a horse like that might get to.'
Crown Witness was rated beautifully in the lead early by Coetzee and fought back gallantly in the straight to down Young Turbo by a neck, with a short head to Champagne Days in third.