JOCKEY Shane Dye returns to Hong Kong on Sunday to ride former Australian galloper Fair Trade in the Derby after his friendship with the owner saw him replace Brett Prebble.

Alan Aitken, writing in the South China Morning Post, wrote this piece on Dye which we reproduce with their compliments:

Whether Shane Dye fills a gap in his impressive major-race resume by winning Sunday's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby on Fair Trade or not, he is a man finally at peace with himself.

Dye, 43, had almost three years of wandering a personal wilderness: the winner of almost 100 Group Ones out of demand in Hong Kong after eight seasons in which his personal life spectacularly took over attention from his skills in the saddle at times, then returning to his former home in Sydney to find himself unwanted there, too.

In starting anew on the island paradise of Mauritius last year, Dye not only found himself winning again but found happiness.

“I went home to New Zealand for Christmas for the first time in 27 years and I think I'm actually enjoying life for the first time,” said Dye yesterday. “I've got a wonderful girl, my body is good and healthy and I’m feeling good riding a horse again.”

Dye's history had as much to do with injury and discontent as it once had to do with dominating Australia's major races.

In June 2006, a life-threatening fall at Sha Tin saw him rushed to Prince Of Wales Hospital for emergency brain surgery, with a collapsed lung and cracked vertebra mere side issues.

The New Zealand-born rider made a remarkable comeback, winning a race at the same track almost three months to the day after a crash that would have ended other careers, but Dye suggested later he may have come back too fast.

Recovering full fitness was a slower process and niggling injuries saw his form struggle and demand taper and, in March 2008, he returned to Australia's more fevered, seven-days-a-week schedule to get fit.

But an iron snapped under his foot in a race in Brisbane that year, he crashed to the track and damaged rib cartilage that became a persistent problem.

The turning point was taking up an invitation to ride in Mauritius for the Gilbert Rousset stable in early 2009 and a total change of environment.

“Going to Mauritius was really good for me. I'd had so much trouble with my body and my doctor said that I needed to go somewhere warm, where I could swim every day, so Mauritius was perfect,” he said.

“It took me two, 2-1/2 years to get over my fall. I kept cracking bones and things like that but now I'm 100 per cent. My record there speaks for itself – I went to one of the smaller stables but we ended up leading trainer and leading jockey for the season. I rode sensational, had a big season and I've enjoyed the three months off since.”

The Mauritius season begins again at the end of this month, but the Fair Trade story began late last year. Ironically, Dye is lining up with one of the best chances he has had to win the Derby, some two years after he left the permanent roster here.

Third on the favorite, Helene Vitality, in his first Hong Kong season, Dye's nose for a Group One victory only got one other sniff in the race when the Caspar Fownes-trained Hail The Storm was a distant second to Viva Pataca at 75-1 four years ago.

“Caspar rang me before Christmas and said Fair Trade was one of the best horses he's trained and I should get myself fit and come to ride it. I came back for a so-so ride in last year's Derby but it's nicer to come for a chance,” he said. “The outside draw isn't ideal but he's the kind of horse who might be able to overcome it.”

Maybe his mount will be the first horse to start and finish the Derby unbeaten since River Verdon in 1991 - maybe not - but Shane Dye finds himself a happy man at last.