Champion jockey-turned-trainer Douglas Whyte insists any talk of him winning this season’s trainers’ title is premature but he couldn’t be happier with how his freshman term as a handler is going.
Whyte is one of the most revered figures in Hong Kong racing after winning 13 jockeys’ premierships in the saddle and has already announced himself as one of the brightest training prospects in the jurisdiction, racking up 24 winners to date.
With champion trainer John Size the only handler to win the title in his debut season in the modern era, Whyte said he had put no thought into possibly joining the Australian despite sitting just 10 wins off premiership leader Ricky Yiu Poon-fai.
“I think you’d be jumping the gun a bit there,” Whyte smiled. “I know I am competitive, that’s my second nature but at this stage it is just about getting every horse to perform at their very best and keeping them in the best condition I can.
“I couldn’t be happier, I have a lot of nice, young horses and a great team behind me with a lovely routine.”
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Two of Whyte’s young stable stars will line up at Sha Tin on Sunday as he looks to better his imposing record.
Inner Flame was the South African’s first winner that was not a stable transfer and has since won again.
While many horses quickly find their mark after a string of wins, Whyte believes Inner Flame can go on to win three on the trot in the Class Three Daffodil Handicap (1,200m).
“He is a typical horse that has gone to the races and has stepped up and improved,” he said of the four-year-old.
“Now he is in Class Three and he hasn’t got the best of gates [nine] but he has had a lovely introduction to racing and he has led or sat outside the leader and attacked the line.
“He is versatile, he has a lot of presence and is lovely to be working every morning. If my hands don’t lie, he has improved slightly.”
Since the departure of Whyte’s go-to jockey Alberto Sanna earlier this season, he has turned to visiting Frenchman Alexis Badel, who will again ride Inner Flame. The pair has seven wins from just 20 starts together this season.
“Alexis is riding well, he has lovely hands and is a good judge of tempo, he tends to get a horse to relax nicely and they run for him,” Whyte said.
Another of Whyte’s talented young runners in Wayfoong Star will step out in the Class Four Orchid Handicap (1,200m).
The four-year-old was a standout at the trials but was overwhelmed on debut after being sent out a $1.80 favourite.
“He did it the hard way from the front. He was always vulnerable, he hadn’t been in front in any of his trials until then,” Whyte said.
“He was probably a bit fresh in front and out of his comfort zone, he is a big boy so I think he ran with some credit, he has gained some experience. Physically he has indicated that the run has done him well.”
Forced to jump from barrier 11 on Sunday, Whyte indicated he would like jockey Karis Teetan to settle his speedster to allow him to run on.
“It is difficult to predict the speed of these 1,200m races – like when I was riding, it depends on what happens when the gates open,” he said.
“It would be lovely if he could get behind a couple of horses and find a nice rhythm. I am sure if he can do that, he would be very effective and hit the line well.”