Twelfth title and counting for unstoppable Whyte
A sign of a champion is when their dominant performances necessitate a change of rules - and so it was when Douglas Whyte rolled to a remarkable 12th straight title, with only personal milestones providing fuel for the South African's competitive fire.
Whyte will have a further cap placed on his rides for champion trainer John Size next season, after a one-sided contest- only a late season injury stalling a tilt at his all-time mark of 114.
Whyte steamed to 107 wins, 47 of them for Size, notched triple figures for the fifth time and became the first jockey to reach two lofty career totals - 1,400 victories and riding winners of over HK$1 billion in stake money.
It was a four-timer on National Day, including feature-race wins on Ambitious Dragon and Entrapment, that was a sign of things to come. Brett Prebble hit the front briefly in late October before Whyte went on a phenomenal 10-for-21 tear through to the end of November. By Chinese New Year (January 25), he had more than doubled the tally of his old sparring partner and the championship was all over.
Prebble's season was interrupted by overseas engagements and injury, relegating him to an ultimately unsuccessful battle for second with Zac Purton. Prebble broke his collarbone, sidelining him for three weeks, on the same February day apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu broke his upper arm, putting him out for the season. A week later, Darren Beadman's barrier trial mishap put both accidents in perspective. Beadman may never ride again. The full ramifications of the fall, after which he was first diagnosed with concussion, were in fact severe nerve damage and the 46-year-old faces a lengthy rehabilitation process as he struggles to regain his balance. In his absence, Prebble (63 wins) formed a deadly partnership with John Moore (13 wins combined).
Purton's runner-up effort with 64 victories was all the more remarkable for the fact he had just 10 rides - and no winners - for the top three stables. The Australian instead continued to forge fruitful relationships with local trainers, including Danny Shum Chap-shing, who provided him with a career highlight on Little Bridge at Royal Ascot.
Jeff Lloyd and Brett Doyle departed the ranks, both clinching Group One victories on their way out, while newcomer Tim Clark proved he belonged with a successful debut season (28 wins) and Tye Angland (37) solidified his spot. The cameos of rising European stars Maxime Guyon, Mikael Barzalona and Umberto Rispoli were mixed. French pair Guyon and Barzalona combined for six wins from 148 rides, while Rispoli started slow but showed tenacity and was rewarded with a farewell Group One victory aboard Rulership in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup. James McDonald flew in for a hit-and-run mission on Xtension, but getting the Kiwi to stay longer than six weeks seems beyond the licensing committee.
Apprentice Alvin Ng Ka-chun's anticipated dominance didn't eventuate, with the 22-year-old having more days lost to suspension (22) than winners (20).
Local jockeys will be hit with a limit on rides for stables for the first time, with Matthew Chadwick the worst affected through his combination with Tony Cruz. Freelance riders who have reached 250 wins will lose their two-pound allowance. Eddie Lai Wai-ming and Howard Cheng Yue-tin will be the first to compete on equal footing.