Douglas Whyte is adamant he should have gone home a winner from his final meeting as a jockey.
The 13-time champion rode two seconds, a third and two fourths on the day, falling just short of the fairy tale send-off in front of his adoring fans at Sha Tin.
While the legendary jockey has no regrets looking back on his career, he is convinced rival jockey Joao Moreira cost him the Class Two Heung Yee Kuk Cup (1,200m) when the Brazilian rolled in while riding Raging Blitzkrieg as Whyte was making a run up the rail on Storm Signal.
“I would have won the race. That’s the only bittersweet ending to the day,” a matter-of-fact Whyte said.
“I was just gaining momentum and I came to win the race and when you get knocked sideways like that [you stop] and the horse on my inside turned my hindquarters.
“He still picked up and I still thought I was going to win it, but Lean Perfection gained momentum and unfortunately was there to nab me.
“When you look back and say ‘what were the disappointments?’, I’m going to say ‘that one got away’.
“It wasn’t my fault – it got away because of circumstances. I was a bit upset about that but you move on and move forward. It’s done.
“[Moreira] pulled up and said sorry, but I don’t think he realised the severity of the interference. Of course when we watched the replay in the stewards’ room he put his hand up. He knew he had allowed his horse to shift in.”
Close but not quite close enough for Douglas Whyte in R7: Storm Signal rallies willingly on the inner only to be pegged back by the well-backed Lean Perfection and My Darling. Winning rider @AlexisBadel moves to nine for the season with a week of his contract left. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/k2KATmOafb— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 10, 2019
Moreira did not get off scot-free, however, copping a two-meeting suspension along with a HK$60,000 fine from stewards.
Lean Perfection’s jockey Alexis Badel was full of praise for Whyte following the win.
“I feel very honoured to have had a fight with Douglas Whyte for victory. There can only be one winner, it was a very intense fight all the way down the straight,” he said.
The win of Lean Perfection was not the only time Yip played the role of villain for the day, with his first starter Prince Of Gems holding off the man of the moment on Mr Croissant in the Class Four Cineraria Handicap (1,200m).
“Racing is like that, everywhere you go it’s like that,” Yip said. “[Whyte] is one of the very nice guys, he has a very good attitude and is professional with everything he does. Hopefully he will be become a good trainer.”
The scale of the moment was not lost on jockey Zac Purton.
“I knew Douglas’ horse was on my back in the run because I had to cross him and I could feel him looming up to my outside but I always felt comfortable that I was going to hold him off,” he said.
“My job is to ride winners, as much as it would have been nice to see him ride a winner today, I wasn’t going to let it happen at my expense.”
Speaking on Prince Of Gems, Yip marked the four-year-old as one for the future following the impressive win.
“He is a nice horse, he will keep improving, I think Class Three will be no problem, but hopefully he stays in Class Four for one more and continues to improve,” he said.
“He showed enough in his work for me to know he would be a chance, I told the owners he was a very good chance.”