THE crucial role of the jockey could not have been underlined more clearly than when Bumper Star narrowly defeated Winning Wave yesterday to give Tony P. H. Chan his first training success of the season. Bumper Star was ridden by Frenchman Eric Legrix, having been partnered to narrow defeats on his last two starts by Raymond K. L. Tsui. Winning Wave was yesterday ridden by apprentice Victor C. F. Chan, who dropped his whip at an absolutely crucial stage some 70 metres from home. It does not take too much working out that the presence of Legrix on Bumper Star's back made all the difference compared to his previous two efforts and to Winning Wave's effort. Tsui has been one of the better local riders in his day, but he is not in the class of Legrix these days. Similarly, Chan, usually one of the very best apprentices, was overpowered at the finish because he dropped his whip. Of course, every jockey drops his whip once in a while, but Winning Wave's backers - and he did start the 3-1 favourite having been supported from 9-2 with a total of $6.4 million - will draw scant consolation from that. More than anywhere else in the world, the man in the saddle in Hong Kong racing is crucial to all betting calculations. This is because the races are so closely and accurately handicapped and the riding so tight. No quarter is asked and none given. Results are so often decided on photo-finishes and, in the third event yesterday, the head margin between Bumper Star and Winning Wave was undoubtedly down to the quality of the rides they were given. Chan did nothing wrong at all in the run, giving his mount a beautiful ride from on the pace until that whip-dropping incident. Legrix gave his mount the perfect ride from trap to line, sitting sixth or seventh on the rail before moving through from the top of the straight to cut down long-time leader Famous Arch and withstand Winning Wave's challenge. Geoff Lane's Better Choice ran home strongly for third to suggest he is coming back to form. He has had good wet-track form in the past and looked very much at home on yesterday's rain-affected surface as he made up good ground on the far rail over the last 200 metres.