Whyte lands Grand ride for QEII Cup
Douglas Whyte was yesterday confirmed as the rider of Australia's best male racehorse, Grand Armee, in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup on April 24 and the champion jockey celebrated the only way he knows how - by riding more winners.
Whyte had been benched for three meetings by stipendiary stewards on a careless-riding charge, but the break did nothing to soften his competitive edge as he demonstrated by winning on favourite Good Ba Ba ($19) at his first ride back.
Good Ba Ba carried a seven-pound penalty for having won on his debut and earned the jockey's admiration for grafting this triumph under topweight of 132 pounds, narrowly defeating the Caspar Fownes-trained juvenile Toffee to whom he conceded 16 pounds.
'It is never easy for the northern hemisphere three-year-olds to beat the southern hemisphere two-year-olds, giving away that amount of weight,' Whyte said.
'Good Ba Ba had done really well since his first-up win, and had actually put on a few pounds. So we gave him a hard gallop down the back straight from the 1,800 metres on Monday morning and that really woke him up.
'When I rode him on Thursday morning, he was completely focused, very switched on. I knew he was ready.'
Good Ba Ba is a product of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's International Sale in December. He was originally trained by Tony Millard but was transferred to Alex Wong Yu-on just a handful of weeks before his debut.
Whyte's second winner, ironically, was on the Millard-trained Lifeline Rapide, who was backed down late from $58 to pay $43.50 before scrambling a neck win over Crystal (Shane Dye) at the conclusion of an every-chance ride.
'Lifeline Rapide has done a good job and is a perfect horse for these 1,400 metres races. He begins well, can take a position and sprints hard when you ask him,' he added.
Lifeline Rapide, a half-brother to 1999 Golden Slipper Stakes (group one) winner Prowl, has won only two of his 12 starts but has performed consistently even in defeat, with his placings including a second to the Tony Cruz-trained Nilometer over 1,600m on January 23.
Whyte went within a nose of making it three for the afternoon when heavily supported favourite Sharki was touched off by Shane Dye's late swoop on Solar in the eighth.
'He was very unlucky to lose,' Whyte said. 'I thought he was going to win by a length but he shied at the infield tote board. I had to keep him straight and couldn't really ride him out the way I wanted. If he hadn't done that, I'm confident he would have won - it was still a good effort under that big weight (132 pounds).'
Looking ahead, Whyte said he was delighted at being given the opportunity to ride Grand Armee, whose recent weight-for-age scoreline reads three wins and a second to champion mare Makybe Diva in the group one BMW (2,400m), from his last four starts.
Grand Armee is prepared by Gai Waterhouse and has won four Group One races over the past year at the QEII distance of 2,000 metres.
'I looked at the video of his win last Saturday in their Queen Elizabeth Stakes and you'd have to say he was very impressive,' Whyte said. 'I spoke with Gai this morning and everything seems fine. Provided she's happy with the horse on Monday morning, he'll he cleared to make the trip and I'll be riding him.'