felix coetzee & john cc chanJohn C C Chan and Felix Coetzee
(Photo : Hong Kong Jockey Club)

South African master horseman, Felix Coetzee, bid farewell to Hong Kong Racing at the end of last year after an “experiment” that lasted 16 years, in order to reunite with his family in Cape Town.

On 20 December 2008 at Sha Tin Racecourse, The Hong Jockey Club presented Felix Coetzee with a silver dish in recognition of his contribution to Hong Kong Racing. Bloodhorse reports that tributes poured in with a personal tribute from Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges heading the moving list of commendations by stating that Felix Coetzee is the “the most professional jockey I’ve ever worked with or seen.”

In 1992 Felix Coetzee commenced riding in Hong Kong, originally serving as a stable-retained jockey for Brian Kan Ping-chee, a larger-than-life trainer with firm views on just about everything.

When Pocket Money won the opening race on the Cathay Pacific International card on 14 December 2008, Felix Coetzee’s Hong Kong statistics rested at 6052 races ridden with an acculation of 643 winners and earnings of KH$572 million in stakes.

His most famous association in Hong Kong came as the riding half of the “C team,” with the trainer being former six-time champion jockey Tony Cruz.

“I won two championships with Felix as my retained jockey,” Tony Cruz began. “We won two Derbys, a Hong Kong Mile (HK-I) with Lucky Owners, and 17 straight wins with Silent Witness. While Felix was riding for me, we broke George Moore’s record for the number of wins in a season, and the all-time single-season prize money record too. It will be very hard to get a person to replace Felix Coetzee.”

Bill Nader, Hong Kong Jockey Club Executive Director of Racing, has been in the job less than two years but his admiration of Felix Coetzee is almost as great as those who’ve known him much longer.

“Felix has been a great asset to Hong Kong racing over the last 16 years as a world-class jockey and a great ambassador for the sport,” said Bill Nader.”He was a big part of our greatest success story as the regular rider of Silent Witness and, leading by example, he has helped younger jockeys appreciate and understand the professional work ethic needed to develop their skills. He will always be respected as a terrific judge of pace and for the enthusiasm he consistently demonstrated for his chosen profession. We wish him every success in his return to South Africa and hope to see him often as a return visitor to Hong Kong.”

Watch a farewell tribute to Felix Coetzee
Race 10 at Sha Tin Racecourse, 20 December 2008.