Douglas Whyte hopes the rain sticks around for Sunday’s Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup as quirky French colt Helene Charisma looks to get his “toe into the ground” and shed his reputation as being ungenuine in a finish.
Hong Kong was inundated on Wednesday morning, the downpour soaking an already softened Sha Tin course proper, and although it was forecast to mostly clear by later in the week, the wet weather was still heartening for Whyte.
“I’m not sure if there’ll be more rain, but even if the track races like it did last weekend, that will certainly suit him,” the South African jockey said.
“I just hope there is because he will forget about the hanging and go straight.”
Helene Charisma loomed like the winner last start in the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup but seemed to shirk the task when it came time to fight it out with stablemate and eventual winner Eagle Way.
As he had done previously, Helene Charisma hung in over the concluding stages, clearly feeling the firm ground.
An aversion to Sha Tin’s relatively rock hard surface isn’t unusual among European imports, especially those with some soft ground form like Helene Charisma, who won a Listed race on heavy ground before capturing the Group One Grand Prix de Paris on ground rated good to soft.
Yet Whyte has suggested the other factor at play is Helene Charisma’s status as a colt, something that may come under serious review from trainer John Moore if the four-year-old again overthinks things in a finish on Sunday.
“He is an entire and maybe because of that he is a thinker. He certainly had something left had he wanted to produce it last time,” Whyte said.
“I was a bit disappointed, especially given the way I tracked Joao into the race and I went to go by him easily, but my horse kept leaning in.”
The challenges of training entires in the limited space of Sha Tin’s stabling facilities are well documented and illustrated that at any one time around 95 per cent of Hong Kong’s 1,200 or so horses are geldings.
Even though managing the more temperamental colts can be difficult, Moore has managed to win Group Ones previously with entires like Helene Paragon, Dominant and Xtension.
Whyte formed an association with colt Akeed Mofeed, with whom he and Richard Gibson combined to win the 2013 BMW Hong Kong Derby and the Group One Hong Kong Cup later that year, but the jockey said there were some key temperamental differences with Helene Charisma.
“They are difficult horses and you have to keep them as mentally relaxed and contained as possible,” he said of entires.
“But Akeed Mofeed and this horse are just two totally different animals. Akeed Mofeed didn’t know he was a colt. He was a gentle giant, whereas this guy knows he is a colt and is a bit playful and cheeky.
“He hasn’t got that nastiness or that savagery, but he still knows he is intact and that makes him think a bit. Akeed Mofeed probably didn’t know he was a stallion until he went to stud.
“Helene Charisma is going to be a lovely individual next season, and who knows, maybe after this race they will consider gelding him, and we might see a more mentally mature horse next season.
“But at the moment it is what it is. The bottom line is that if he gets some give in the ground and he can get his toe in, he will forget about the sting and go forward.”