Whyte takes the sweets with a dashing treble
The empire struck back with a vengeance at Sha Tin as reigning champion jockey Douglas Whyte put the Jockey Challenge to bed before halfway with a quick-fire treble and might easily have doubled his win tally for the afternoon.
Whyte's scorecard read three wins when the dust settled, with another five seconds, with his only disappointment the horse that carried so much expectation into the Gold Cup, Akeed Mofeed, and the victories on Dashing Super, Sugar City and Gorgeous Debut killed off the Jockey Challenge in a single hour.
Gorgeous Debut was the most impressive of them, leading throughout to put up a big margin in the fourth and then leading trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing to reveal how the son of Exceed And Excel became the sale topper at last year's International Sale.
"The owner didn't have a permit, so the only way he could get a horse was to buy one at the Jockey Club sale," Shum explained. "So I said to him, if he's going to buy one at the sale, he might as well buy the best one. We went with a budget of $5 million then while we were bidding, I talked him into going higher and eventually he paid $6.2 million but he got him."
A stretch of the budget that was looking somewhat healthier after Shum watched the Exceed And Excel three-year-old walk in with the Class Four fourth race.
"Mentally, the horse is still developing. He has a lot of speed but he has been disappointing down the straight course because he just wants to go full speed the whole way, so he is better on the turn.
Whyte said that although Gorgeous Debut's two wins for him had been from in front, he didn't see him as a one-trick pony.
"I'm sure that he'll sit in behind one too but he got the lead easily today, dropped his head and then demoralised them," Whyte said. "He'll handle the next grade up for sure."
Whyte's win on Sugar City for Richard Gibson was more of a surprise, with the five-year-old having moved across from Sean Woods only a month ago and having his first outing for the yard.
"He was drawn the outside and we had limited options so I took him back to the rear and found the rail," said Whyte. "Richard really just wanted to see him find the line, so that was how I rode him and the gaps kept opening up in front of him and he ran on well. I think he'll be competitive again and he does feel like he'll get further than the 1,400m today too."
The first of Whyte's winning trio was Dashing Super for Me Tsui Yu-sak, a win that was always in doubt until the post after El Grande had headed him off at the 250m and gone clear.
"The other one got away but my horse kept grinding away and clawing him back," Whyte said. "He was never going to win by far but he got there. He's a horse who does have a bit of a look around but his attitude generally is good, even if he's limited, so he might be a chance with a light weight in the next class."