Felix Coetzee will forever be linked with legendary world sprint champion Silent Witness, but the riding boot will be on the other foot in the Group Two Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint today as the South African plots the downfall of Hong Kong's present hero, Sacred Kingdom, with Rocket Man.
Though Rocket Man's imposing career record of 14 starts for 11 wins and three seconds has given him a Silent Witness-like profile in Singapore, he has been beaten in three international attempts - including his only meeting with Sacred Kingdom - and will take the unusual role of the hunter rather than the hunted.
'There's no special plan to beat Sacred Kingdom. He will be off the pace and my horse has a pattern of being up there leading or with the leaders if something else goes,' said Coetzee yesterday as he starts a brief club jockey stint that will take him to international day on December 12. 'I suppose people are always a bit happier, especially the horse's first time here and first time right-handed, if he can let one or two lead him in the race and there does look some other speed, but I'll be playing it by ear.'
By the same token, Coetzee (pictured) said Rocket Man was a horse who could adjust tactics on the run and is not just a one- dimensional speed horse. 'He's a very intelligent horse and helps you out in a race,' he said. 'When I rode him in Singapore, he had a big weight and everything else had a light weight and so they tried to take him on and make him work but he didn't panic. He let them do their thing, didn't fire up or get overexcited, and by the time we got to the home turn, they were spent and he just kicked away. He hits the line like a 1,400m horse to me, so he's very strong at the end of 1,200m.'
What Coetzee was happy to squash were the reports that Rocket Man had been struggling with any body weight issues since his arrival last week. 'I don't know where that came from. Somebody got it wrong because he is very, very well and looks a picture,' he asserted. 'Rocket Man is spot on for this. I don't know if there is any improvement in him for the Hong Kong Sprint, but I can tell you, if he felt this well a week before the big one, then I'd be happy.'
The winner of 18 races on Silent Witness, the first 17 straight, Coetzee remains ever the diplomat whenever asked for any comparison with Rocket Man.
'Different eras, different competition and both very good in their own time,' he said. 'It is academic to compare them, but I do know that Rocket Man is very good and very fit.'