SA Jockeys Off To Flying Start
In Hong Kong
By Murray Bell
8 September 2003
The powerful South African riding contingent came, saw and conquered Sha Tin on a rain-swept Saturday afternoon, even in the absence of their senior statesman Felix Coetzee.
Doubles to Anton Marcus, Douglas Whyte and Weichong Marwing, plus a thrilling last-stride victory for Robbie Fradd in the sixth event, left lean pickings for the jockeys of all other nationalities.
Fradd's power riding drove topweight Wise Choice (20-1) home by a short head in the Class 3 handicap (1,600m), narrowly spoiling what looked like the first Hong Kong winner for South African newcomer Anthony Delpech on the Caspar Fownes-trained Deep Purple.
The quinella should also serve as evidence to the ever-present conspiracy theorists that the South African riders are the champions at no-holds-barred racing, and further proof that a similar passport will buy a fellow Springbok no head start.
Wise Choice, trained by Manfred Man Ka-leung, has now won first-up in each of the last two seasons, having scored over 1,400 metres on the opening day of the 2002-03 season.
"He's not a good horse on the track, he's very relaxed at home so he doesn't do enough on the track to make you keen about him first-up like that," Fradd said. "But he's very genuine, he really wants to race."
Fradd was just behind midfield, on the rails, but in the yielding conditions the topweight (129 lbs) was never really on the bridle.
"Like I said, he's very game and he just keeps coming. It's wonderful to ride horses like him that give their best for you."
Fradd had an eventful summer, having ventured to Singapore where he rode Prince of War into fourth place in the S.$650,000 Singapore Derby (Gr 1). He also went home to South Africa to win that country's most important race, the July Handicap at Durban, on the champion Dynasty, recently voted Horse of the Year.
Anthony Delpech, South Africa's record-breaking jockey, was both disappointed and excited after finishing second to Fradd on Deep Purple.
"I thought I had the race won but Robbie grabbed me in the last couple of hops," he said. "I'm very keen to get off the mark and hopefully, my turn will come very soon."
Delpech, who rode an all-time record 358 winners to take the South African jockeys' premiership in 1997-98, took the title again last season, albeit with a more modest 293.
Felix Coetzee expects to be fit for the first Happy Valley meeting of the season on Wednesday night after making a late decision to stand down from yesterday's fixture.
"Felix had a fall at trackwork on Thursday and did some minor damage to one shoulder," chief stipendiary steward Jamie Stier explained last night.
"He told us he will rest it for a couple more days and should be ready to ride work on Monday morning and will be inspected by the doctor before riders are declared."