Confident Whyte giving Prebble run for his money
The Durban Demon had that eye of the tiger look as he sliced further into Brett Prebble's championship lead with a treble just a week after the confidence boost he got from winning his first Hong Kong Derby on Super Satin.
Douglas Whyte admitted to feeling on top of the world and ready for anything after landing Rugby Heaven and Entrapment for John Size and Fresh Air for Me Tsui Yu-sak to have the Jockey Challenge in his keeping by the halfway mark and trimming Prebble's title-race lead back to seven wins.
The two wins on the Size favourites didn't come without a few concerns for punters taking the short odds, but they got home and everyone got paid on a day when seven outright favourites landed the prize.
Unbeaten Entrapment started a $13.50 favourite coming off a last-start win when he had to do a little work early from a wide draw, but that nothing by comparison with what he had to overcome this time from the same alley.
'The other day was a picnic compared to this time,' said Whyte. 'He had more weight today and they just wouldn't let me cross. And when it looked like he might get across, something dug up under us, then he got a nudge behind on the turn and ran out.
'But I did get a breather when we got behind Wei Hai Invincible and then I was able to sit there for a good 100m when we straightened. Then Royal Doctor came at him and Entrapment picked up, but to be honest I thought he was spent, then he dug in, changed his legs and found again. It makes you wonder how he'll go the day he does draw a gate and gets a softer run through a race. Still, the toughening up is doing him good.'
The omen tip of the day, Rugby Heaven, justified his favouritism by breaking through at start number six for his first win, but Whyte said that was nip and tuck at one stage, too, and said Size taking him to Happy Valley in some of his earlier races had paid dividends.
'When they go to the Valley like this guy did early on and get bullied a bit, they learn to cope with horses close around them and having to jostle for position and to hold that position,' Whyte said. 'Now that was important today because it got very tight when he was coming through between horses. I was scraping the outside rail. But he bullied his way through and found the line and had it been new to him, he might have shirked the issue.'
Fresh Air was another to enjoy the benefits of Whyte's astute homework, with the champion rider electing to stay inside.
'I had the great draw and a lovely run but I didn't want to come outside horses on him anyway,' he said. 'I rode Fresh Air in work the other day and he followed another horse but when I came to the outside, he wanted to run away from the horse rather than concentrating on getting past him. I could have come out and around Guan Dao any time I wanted but I was worried that he might do something similar. But he's a lovely individual, a nice-actioned horse and I think he will be winning his way out of Class Four.'