felix coetzee
felix coetzee

Felix Coetzee / HKJC (p)

“Felix Coetzee rode 3508 winners in a glittering career where he was crowned South African Champion three times and won 75 Group 1 races internationally.”

One of South Africa’s greatest jockeys and sporting ambassadors has decided to call it a day. Felix Coetzee rode 3508 winners in a glittering career where he was crowned South African Champion three times and won 75 Group 1 races internationally.

Citing the fact that he was struggling with the wear and tear on his hip following hip replacement surgery last year, the 54 year old horseman, known as ‘The Cat’, has delighted his legion of fans by suggesting that he may well ‘not be lost to the sport.’

The champion jockey, who has ridden 3508 winners in South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, England, Macau, Dubai and Mauritius, including an extraordinary three Durban Julys, eight Gold Cups, five J&B Mets and two Summer Cups, will be a major loss to the local riding ranks.

He rode mainly for the powerful Justin Snaith yard in the last few seasons.

Coetzee has been associated with three of the greatest horses of recent years in Empress Club, Silent Witness and Rocket Man.

He was stable rider to the maestro trainer Terrance Millard, which provided him with a legendary host of big race winners throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as three Jockeys Championships.

He relocated to Hong Kong in 1992 and eventually teamed up with former champion jockey Tony Cruz. Coetzee helped Cruz win his first Trainer’s Championship in the 1999/2000, a title he also won in 2004/2005.

It was his partnership with the legendary Cruz-trained Silent Witness that made Coetzee a household name amongst the global racing community.

The Australian-bred gelding won his first 17 starts and Felix partnered him in every one of his 29 career starts.

Coetzee was always destined to reach the highest level in horseracing. His grandfather was an owner-trainer and his father Hennie trained out of Summerveld.

The records show that his first winner was in an amateur race at Richmond aboard a quarter horse called Middleberg, whom he regarded as one of the top three fastest horses he had ever ridden.

His first professional winner was for his father aboard Royal Drummer and his first feature winner was as a sixteen-year-old aboard Kentford in the 1975 Clairwood Winter Handicap.

He won South Africa’s premier staying race, the Grade 1 Gold Cup on In Writing in 2012, in one of the greatest tactical rides seen at the top level in recent times.

Coetzee has been devoting his recovery time to his family. His wife Janine and two children, 23 year old daughter Katherine and 13 year old son Daniel have enjoyed having Dad at home.

The South African horseracing industry will be waiting with bated breath to hear what move Felix Coetzee makes next. His vast experience and expertise will no doubt be highly sought.

Extract from Sporting Post