Pressure mounts on Entrapment
If unbeaten sprinter Entrapment falls victim to 'second-up syndrome' when chasing nine straight wins in tomorrow's Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) at Sha Tin, he won't lose the admiration of his No1 fan, jockey Douglas Whyte.
Entrapment made a spectacular return from 15 months on the sidelines earlier this month, dominating a quality field in the Group Three Sha Tin Sprint Trophy (1,000m).
The win confirmed the John Size-trained horse as a bona fide Hong Kong superstar and increased the public's already high expectations.
Whyte (pictured) said the winning streak brought 'unnecessary pressure' and expressed caution ahead of what will be the five-year-old's toughest test yet. 'It was a long time between drinks when he stepped out for his last race,' Whyte said.
'There were a lot of unanswered questions, he was there and he was vulnerable, but obviously he answered them better than any of us expected.
'He proved he was the real deal and came through the first-up run with flying colours.
'But stepping out now for a second-up run, the big concern is that many horses after such a long lay-off, second-up, a lot of them can run flat.'
'But he's got the right trainer to overcome that hindrance.'
Whyte hopes the unbeaten run continues, but accepts that one day Entrapment will be beaten.
'There's certainly a lot of excitement,' Whyte said of the winning run. 'But with the excitement comes expectation and a lot of unnecessary pressure, not on my behalf, but on the horse's behalf.
'There is going to come a time when he does get beat, when he meets his match or has an off day and he won't disappoint me because he doesn't know when to lay down or give up and he is a trier.'
If a trial 11 days ago is any indication, Entrapment is ready to rumble second-up. Just like his first-up win, Entrapment simply seemed to decide he wanted to be in front and did it with ease.
Whyte is a master tactician but he says riding Entrapment can make him feel like a passenger. 'Once we started turning the corner, he pretty much knows his job and he took me, I didn't have a choice, he was just striding forward,' he said of the trial.
'He pretty much dictates to you. He is not a horse that likes to be fought or that sort of thing.'
Entrapment will lump eight more pounds than he carried first-up and faces a field with more depth. Whyte acknowledged the factors against his mount, but said the weight increase was offset by drawing barrier five and the step up to 1,200m.
'Weight is always a factor ... but he is a class act,' he said. 'I'd be a lot more concerned had he not drawn an alley.
'Now that he has age and experience on his side, I definitely think the six furlongs is his best distance.'