Overseas riders at the mercy of Whyte
Three-time Cathay Pacific International Jockeys' Championship winner, Douglas Whyte has been posted as the early favourite for the 2011 renewal at Happy Valley, despite his view that past winners Christophe Lemaire and Frankie Dettori will be hard to beat.
Dettori, the winner in 1999 and 2001, drew well in the four-race series yesterday morning, as did Lemaire, who was one of the three dead-heat winners two years ago.
'It's an open series - nobody has two rides that they could really count on. There are several jockeys with one good ride and then another one that could go one way or the other,' Whyte commented. 'Frankie is on Travel Guide who is finding some form, Romancing Tamar, who is a chance, and he's on Regency Winner in the last leg, who I've been on lately and he is racing very well. And I thought Christophe had nice draws on My Home Town and Lucky Warrior. But a couple of mine are going all right, too, so I hope I'll be making them earn it if they do beat me.'
With the Jockey Challenge betting again to focus solely on the four IJC races - and in-play betting will take place for the first time until after the opening leg - Jockey Club oddsmakers last night published Whyte as the 5.0 favourite ahead of Lemaire at 5.5, Dettori, Brett Prebble and Maxime Guyon at 8.0, but eight of the 12 jockeys have been given a winning chance in the market, at odds of 10.0 or less.
In a quirky coincidence, John Moore drew New Zealand star James McDonald for all three of his runners, while Ryan Moore will team up again with Tony Millard's Something Special, whose win laid the foundation of the English rider's victory last year and the gelding hasn't won since. 'He's been looking forward all year to the chance of teaming up again with Ryan Moore,' joked Millard. 'And I'm confident the other horses are in good shape and in suitable races, too. Two for Ryan and one for Frankie, it doesn't get much better than that. Let's hope the trainer and the horses are up to scratch for them.'
Moore has come with a barnstorming finish to win the final leg of the series for the past two editions, sealing his place in the three-way tie in 2009 with Mings' Hero, then wrapping up the championship last year with Fearless, both for Dennis Yip Chor-hong.
This time, he has a different trainer but the right mount to do something similar, with the David Hall-trained Summer Dash a regular swooper who will be suited by Moore's powerful-finishing style in the last leg.
John Murtagh, coming off a victory in Japan's Super Jockey Series, has had his chance dented by outside barriers on his younger runners, Redoute's Fortune and Fastplus Master, though he has lower gates with the oldest runner, 10-year-old Great Achievement (gate two) and the seven-year-old Fluke (barrier five).