Hong Kong legend Douglas Whyte will ride at Happy Valley for the last time on Wednesday as the curtain on his illustrious riding career begins to fall.
The 47-year-old’s contract does not expire until February 10, but Whyte’s last ride at the famous city track will be on the Tony Cruz-trained California Gungho in the Class Three Club Street Handicap (1,000m), with only Sha Tin meetings remaining due to Lunar New Year.
Whyte will take up training at the start of the 2019-20 season.
While he has racked up over 1,800 Hong Kong winners, the South African admits he is unsure how he will feel on the night, after his final ride.
“It’s happened so quickly, it’s scary,” he said. “I’m not sure [about emotions], I am about to find out.”
Having ridden the track for more than 20 years, no one has more experience than Whyte.
Even with all those years under his belt, Whyte said it was a track that always kept him on his game.
“It’s a unique track, I don’t think there are many like it. It is very unforgiving but it’s a beautiful track to ride,” he said. “If you get a horse into rhythm and you get the positions, it keeps you thinking … there is no room for error.”
Asked for his favourite Happy Valley memory, Whyte said it was a five-timer in 2004 during a day meeting that sits above even his International Jockeys’ Championship titles.
“I got beat a short head in another race as well, it was really memorable,” he said.
With 572 Happy Valley victories, Whyte is hoping the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Good Omen can send him home a winner one more time.
The pair teamed up in October to record Whyte’s 1,800th Hong Kong win, and the jockey believes the aptly named gelding has what it takes to do it again.
“The horse himself is in great form, if he brings his A game, he has a nice light galloping weight and he has a lovely turn of foot,” he said.
“The key to him is he has to switch off, hence the reason it’s taken him a little bit to adapt to Hong Kong.
“He gets on the bridle and over races, he is his own worst enemy, he doesn’t find the line. The key to him is getting him in a rhythm and getting him to relax.”
The five-year-old has not raced in more than a month but will come to Happy Valley with confidence having won a barrier trial there earlier this month.
“He’s been a work in progress, he’s come a long way and I think he’s matured along the way and got better,” Whyte said.
“I was very happy [with the trial], funny enough, he trialled really well, I sat back and he attacked the line and finished well.”