Whyte keen to try for eighth title
Douglas Whyte will become an even more important part of Hong Kong racing history this afternoon when he accepts his seventh title as champion jockey, but must then reset his new-season goals for a trek into uncharted territory.
Although he's the first jockey in the history of professional racing to win seven straight championships, two great riders before him have also landed seven titles - Gary Moore and Whyte's South African compatriot Basil Marcus - while Tony Cruz won six premierships but holds the record for most Hong Kong wins, 946.
'Fortunately, I still have a bit of energy left in me and I hope I can come back next season to try for one more,' Whyte said with characteristic modesty yesterday.
If he achieves that, passing Cruz's all-time tally will happen automatically, because Whyte's tally this morning is 911, a number which sounds anything but lucky and one he'll undoubtedly want to leave behind as quickly as his Sha Tin mounts this afternoon will allow.
The one thing that was obvious to anyone watching his jockeys' premiership battle with Brett Prebble over the past two months was Whyte's hunger for it.
Prebble, two-time Melbourne champion and season record-holder in that city, desperately wanted to knock Whyte off his mantle. But even he marvelled at just how much Whyte wanted to stay there.
'This title means a lot to me, firstly to be now bracketed with great jockeys like Gary Moore and Basil Marcus, but this year's title, it's just nice to have achieved it in these circumstances,' Whyte said.
'For me, this has been my toughest season and I've done it without much support from a number of the leading stables. Brett, on the other hand, has succeeded in getting strong support from a large number of yards and it was obvious a lot of people wanted him to win.
'Well, that just made me more determined. I love pressure, I love challenges and I love competition, and Brett's provided that.
'But he's drawn level twice, he's had a lot of support and in the end I've drawn away, so I don't think he can offer any excuses.'
Whyte said that on the two occasions when Prebble had big days and drew level with him on the premiership ladder, his personal psychology remained 'pretty good'.
'It made me straighten up and sharpen up, and made me realise even more just how much I wanted to keep it [the title],' he said. 'I think I ended up riding even better, and stronger, because of it.'
When Prebble publicly accepted defeat, he had already done so privately to Whyte and hailed the Durban Demon 'a true champion'.
'It was very professional of Brett and showed him to be a great sportsman,' Whyte said. 'He gave it his all and if there were things said and done during the heat of battle, there are no hard feelings. It was big of him to congratulate me as warmly as did and I would have done exactly the same if the result had gone his way.'