Whyte salutes 'fantastic' Size
Champion jockey Douglas Whyte produced a tactical masterpiece to win the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby on Fay Fay yesterday then happily yielded the stage to his close friend and Dream Team partner, John Size.
Whyte threw his early pre-race plans out the window and pressed forward from the outside barrier, rolling the dice on being caught with too much to do but winning the gamble on a surprisingly soft lead pace.
The Durban Demon judged it perfectly, putting his adversaries on the back foot by halfway, then taking the race by the scruff of the neck from the top of the straight, as Fay Fay dared a rival to get past him and none could.
'It's great to win a second Derby but I can't express how happy and excited I am to win one for John Size - not only one of my best friends but a mentor and I'm blessed to ride for him,' Whyte said after the neck victory landed one of the biggest Derby punts in memory. Fay Fay's odds tumbled from $120 to $47 as bettors rallied around the best-performed four-year-old of the season.
'John is the most amazing person I've met in racing. He's always stood by me, he's been my backbone. I'm sure he has owners hassling to put other jockeys on when I get beaten on one, but I never hear about it and we have the most amazing working relationship. He means everything to me and I feel honoured to have won this for him.'
Two years ago, Whyte had a choice to make in the Derby between Super Satin for Caspar Fownes and Brave Kid for Size, upon which he had won six straight.
'John said 'look it's your decision', I made the toughest call of my life and Super Satin beat John's horse,' Whyte said. 'A lot of people would have got the zig, but John was the first to congratulate me and he really meant it.'
The Dream Team has become an irresistible, iconic partnership, and it's difficult now to think Whyte had only 10 rides for Size in the trainer's first three seasons at Sha Tin, albeit for two winners.
'I remember Johnny and Shane Dye weren't going so great and he asked me to ride one and it won, and then John asked if I would ride a bit more for him - usually when people say ride a bit more, you hope it means ride a lot more and that's what happened,' Whyte said.
'He deserves this Derby more than anyone. He's so thorough, a workaholic. He's a fantastic trainer and we've been very successful together, but there's also a trust, a bond, a friendship and that doesn't often happen in this game. Friends can turn on you very quickly.'
Size has been the dominant championship winner since winning the title at his first attempt a decade ago, but has had a frustrating run in Group Ones since Sight Winner's Champions Mile five years ago.
'It's always nice to win a big race and, in Hong Kong, the big race to win is the Derby and the first emotion I felt was relief,' said Size, whose previous best in a Derby, anywhere, was second with Sir Clive in Sydney 11 years ago. 'I don't recall starting too many in Australia.
'The Derby is the race owners love here, and the horse deserved it. I think he had to be the best horse today to win - he worked early, was there to be beaten and they came to do him, no doubt. I was thinking of another honourable defeat at the 200m, then they died on their runs and the post came up. I know there were unlucky horses behind him and he's had his turns lately at being unlucky, too - but it wasn't Derby day.'