Everything goes to plan for Whyte as Mi Reilly breezes to victory
A plan devised by champion jockey Douglas Whyte and approved by trainer Alex Wong Yu-on paved the way to lightly-raced Mi Reilly landing the Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup, 1,200m, at Happy Valley last night.
'It was Douglas' plan - he told me he would miss the start and I didn't argue,' said a smiling Wong. 'Once he has ridden a horse and knows it, I don't argue with how he wants to ride it afterwards. The important thing was to get this horse to relax one 100 per cent and then pick up. Really, he's a 1,400m horse so riding him for speed is not the best way.'
Whyte said the on-pace favouring C+3 course was in fact the reason he didn't want Mi Reilly to participate in the early speed battle.
'People don't appreciate from the stands how quickly that first turn comes up when you're on this course and I felt that, if I dug Mi Reilly up from the inside with 132 pounds he could be a victim if something else dug up and pressured us,' Whyte explained.
'So I came out not to miss the start but the jump a bit negatively and that was perfect. He dropped on to the rails behind the leaders, relaxed beautifully and from that moment I was confident.'
Earlier in the night, the Durban Demon was on board to help trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing end a shocking run of outs on lightly-raced three-year-old, Bondi Lad. Shum had sent out 116 losing runners since Thumbs Up won the Classic Mile but his luck turned with a sterling performance from the hot favourite in the second event.
'That was a pretty good win despite the margin,' said Whyte after Bondi Lad scrambled home over Withallmyheart. 'He's only a brick and tikki high and they really made him work with 133 pounds, but the fact that Bondi Lad accepted it and didn't overrace when Bushwhacker came up beside him made the difference.
'He still gave me a hell of a kick, probably two lengths when I went for him, so I think he'll be very effective in Class Three here with a weight drop.'
Whyte scraped home in the Jockey Challenge over Derek Leung Ka-chun when Mellifluous grabbed second in the final event behind Leung's second success, Dragon Eye. Bred to get a middle distance, Paul O'Sullivan-trained Dragon Eye relished the step up in distance and was given a smart ride by the 10-pound claimer, crossing to lead and dictate the terms and he never looked like being run down. It was the second leg of a winning double for Leung, who had scored for Ricky Yiu Poon-fie in the opener aboard Double Fantasy.
The other Cup event on the night went to Manfred Man Ka-leung's Natural Flame (Eddie Lai Wai-ming), who is another considered a 1,400m horse by connections but Man is keeping him to sprints for the time being, with happy results in the 16th Commonwealth Law Conference Cup, 1,200m.
'I think he will run further but he is only a three-year-old and not a strong horse. He has a lot of growing to do,' Man said. 'Every time he races, he loses about 20 pounds in body weight, so he is not a horse who could race again next week. I don't want to kill him so I give him some time between his races.' Matthew Chadwick showed that the drop to a seven-pound claim isn't about to halt his progress, taking the fifth on Our Lucky Baby for Dennis Yip Chor-hong as the second part of a double for that yard.
Yip had scored in the fourth with the maiden Sure Gain (Weichong Marwing), who enjoyed the step up to 2,200m and a good ride from Marwing, who had him positioned closer in the run than in recent starts.