Whyte produces riding master class
Durban Demon's picture-perfect exhibition of jockey skills helps mediocre mounts blossom into winning acts
It may have been a quiet week in terms of feature races but champion jockey Douglas Whyte used yesterday's Sha Tin fixture like a Grand Prix practice round for the big ones over the next few weeks, reeling off two 11-out-of-10 rides to land a precision double.
Marco Cheng, Martin Knibbs and the other Jockey Club officials charged with moulding Hong Kong's future jockeys should grab the videos of Whyte's double on Red Fireball (Race Four) and San Lorenzo (Race 10) to show the apprentices two perfect exhibitions by racing's ultimate professional.
If it were a Grand Prix, Whyte would have earned the pole position next week beyond any doubt.
Red Fireball's win has to be seen in the context that this is a seriously limited horse. Before yesterday, the four-year-old had failed to achieve a placing in nine racecourse appearances and had looked thoroughly pedestrian in the care of some other superior jockeys.
But under the guidance of Whyte, Red Fireball was seemingly transformed into a creature less ordinary. Instead of falling out of the stalls and settling near the rear, he was forward of midfield and trailing Michael Kinane on Active Account, one of the main dangers.
'He began surprisingly well and getting on to the back of Mick's horse was just perfect for him,' Whyte said in review. 'When Mick took off on Active Account so far from home, it really made the race for me. The only decision I had to make then was the precise time at which I gave away my trailing position to go three wide and set off after the leader.'
The American-bred gelding was under full pressure before the turn, earlier than Whyte would normally go for his mounts, but he needed to wind the big one-pacer up in time to claw back the margin established by Kinane. Red Fireball ($42.00) ultimately prevailed, but the margin was a mere half length.
Whyte was suitably modest in victory, as always the professional's professional. 'That was his race today and I was pleased for David [Ferraris] and the owners that he could get a win,' he continued.
'Before today, he was only rated on 28 so he'll stay in Class Five and he could possibly win again in this class. But beyond that, I would have my doubts,' Whyte summed up.
The Durban Demon's second winner seemed to give him a level of satisfaction that went beyond the realms of what you'd expect from a garden-variety Class Three race. San Lorenzo ($60.00). Whyte let go with a subtle victory salute with his right arm that reeked of personal triumph and vindication. As to the exact nature of his delight, Whyte was strangely coy. 'Yes, it was pleasing, but let's just say it's always nice to win a race,' he said, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
It was probably just a coincidence that arch-rival Shane Dye had finished second on $28.00 favourite Bumper Bumper and that Whyte had followed the John Size-trained galloper all the way, before peeling off at just the right time to make his finishing charge.
Whyte's execution of the San Lorenzo victory was all the more remarkable because the Australian-bred galloper stepped to 1,400 metres for only the second time and had to overcome the clear disadvantage of barrier 14. Yet Whyte's early navigation was so precise that he could have found the inside rail had he so chosen.
'Yes, I could have crossed right to the rail but I had a look around and being on the back of Shane's horse, one off the fence, was the right position to be in,' he explained. 'From there, everything fell into place. I had the last run at Bumper Bumper and San Lorenzo did the rest.'
Whyte was fulsome in his praise of the training performance of Dennis Yip Hor-chong, who has now primed San Lorenzo into a winner of four successive races.
'Dennis has done a marvellous job with this horse because, as we've discussed before, he hasn't been the easiest horse to train,' Whyte said. 'He had a few tricks about him early but Dennis has been very patient and by using blinkers and spacing his runs, the horse is really enjoying his racing now.'
Whyte has been called upon to ride Multidandy, the main danger to Silent Witness in next week's Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,000m). This is the race where Silent Witness bids to equal Co-Tack's all-time Hong Kong benchmark of 10 straight wins and Multidandy is looming as a potential party pooper.
The following week he will partner recent Classic Mile hero Tiber in the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby (2,000 metres). Having defeated Hong Kong Mile hero Lucky Owners in the Group One race on February 15, there will be very little between Lucky Owners and Tiber in the rematch.
It's just as well Grand Prix rules don't apply in horse racing where Whyte would be given pole position. The champ is hard enough to beat at anytime, as his 65 wins (in front by 17) on the jockeys' premiership table indicates.
Imagine what would happen if his opponents were giving him a start?