As Superfecta noted recently, Aussie jockey (and recent jailbird) Chris Munce is back in the saddle again—literally and figuratively—if only in New South Wales; he’ll be riding Something Anything in the G2 Villiers at Randwick on Saturday. It still doesn't seem right, though, that NSW isn't upholding his riding ban. While certainly not rising to the level of illegally accepting payments totaling $A128,000 in exchange for “betting tips” as Munce was convicted of in Hong Kong, the Aga Khan’s lead jockey Christophe Soumillon (he of Zarkava fame) is also in trouble with Hong Kong authorities. Apparently, there’s nothing quite like a good head-butting after a big day of race riding.
On Sunday, Soumillon won the Hong Kong Mile aboard Good Ba Ba, but he also earned two three-meeting suspensions for careless riding, including one for the rough-and-tumble Hong Kong Cup which many jockeys called the “dirtiest” race they had ever participated in. Darren Beadman aboard the favorite Viva Pataca was stymied by Soumillon on Bullish Luck, enough that he could only manage a fourth-place finish. At a Hong Kong nightclub on Sunday night, the son of Viva Pataca’s trainer John Moore apparently got into some sort of altercation with Soumillon who allegedly headbutted him. The real question is, was the sole point of dispute Soumillon’s ride or is there something more between him and the Moores, since Soumillon used to be Viva Pataca’s jockey?
Who ever said being a jockey wasn’t dangerous—the eighth Australian jockey in eight days went down yesterday. The carnage began last week, in two races I actually was watching live (via the Internet) at Rosehill. First, Kathy O’Hara hurt her shoulder after her horse Hit The Post broke down, and then, a race later, three horses went down in virtually the same spot, resulting in a concussion (Jeff Lloyd), broken wrist (Blake Shinn) and cracked vertebrae (Peter Robl). Add to that apprentices Ben Looker (broken shoulder), Tim McIntosh, Elizabeth Weiszbach, and Luke Cumberland, plus bug boy Lachlan Fyfe who remains in an induced coma, and one might fear an upcoming jockey shortage—not only due to injuries, but also suspensions like those received by Nash Rawiller and apprentice Tommy Berry who are both out until after the New Year for their role in Kathy O'Hara's spill.
After Saturday, there will definitely be one less jockey to knock around, though. And it might be wise to place nice WPS bets on Mike Moroney-trained Butwaittheresmore and Papa at Flemington that day, as they will be two of the last race horses to be ridden by 46-year-old champion jockey Greg Childs who announced today that he will retire afterwards:
“I have given it 110 per cent over the years, but I've lost the aggression to chase good rides and to get out and make it happen. I've climbed to the top of the mountain, but now the time has come to hang my boots up and go on with other things in my life.”
The top of the mountain was undoubtedly the great mare Sunline with whom Childs won 22 of 33 races, including 11 G1s. The latest reports (as of December 2) indicate her condition has stabilized, although it may be another six months before we’ll know if she is triumphant in her battle against laminitis.