Douglas Whyte decides to stay on Gold-Fun for Classic Cup
Jockey stays loyal to the Gibson-trained star for Classic Cup despite 'nice' trial on Autumn Gold
Champion jockey Douglas Whyte has tipped popular expectation upside down by opting to stay with the Richard Gibson-trained Gold-Fun in the Group One Hong Kong Classic Cup on Sunday week.
Although Whyte had won three straight on Gold-Fun, including the Group One Classic Mile last start, the rumour mill had strongly anticipated him switching mounts to Autumn Gold for Sean Woods in the major BMW Hong Kong Derby lead-up.
Whyte trialled Autumn Gold on Tuesday morning before making Gold-Fun his choice, but said yesterday the trial was not part of the decision process.
"I thought Autumn Gold trialled well. He felt like he needed it since he hadn't run since December but that's to be expected and it was a nice trial and he's a horse with a bright future," Whyte said.
"It was a difficult decision but at the end of the day, it's a tough call to get off a last-start Group One winner. Anywhere in the world that's a brave call. And I thought his Classic Mile win was full of merit - they went fast, he was caught without cover and three wide and I got left in front for a long time when the leaders dropped away. He was there to be run down and nothing could do it so it was not an average win."
Woods said he was "very relaxed" about Whyte's decision and more concerned about the horse himself.
"I'll have a chat to the owner and see what he wants to do but I'm very relaxed - there's only one Derby winner and I think Autumn Gold is it," he said. "He's an uncomplicated ride, whoever ends up on him. The main thing is I have a happy horse."
Although Autumn Gold has not run for two months since his Hong Kong Cup disappointment, Woods said it had all been part of the plan.
"His run in the Jockey Club Cup in the lead-up to the internationals was very good then it all went wrong on international day - we rode him for position and he was just too keen," the trainer said. "But I thought going there was a run to nothing, anyway. We've still be able to give him a nice break after it, not worry about the Classic Mile and bring him back for a nice campaign, the 1,800m then into the Derby. The Derby will be his fifth run here and I think that's ideal."