Douglas Whyte’s development as a trainer is showing after enticing victories out of a couple of frustrating horses in Tashidelek and Amazing Kiwi at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
The 13-time champion jockey-turned-trainer collected 44 wins in his first campaign out of the saddle and getting positive results with gallopers who have disappointed in the past proves he’s on an upwards trajectory.
Tashidelek has been a regular money-muncher for punters over the past two seasons in his 20 starts for John Moore, being beaten on five occasions when starting at prices between $1.50 and $2.80.
But a new start with Whyte proved the difference and the six-year-old defied a wide run throughout to break his Hong Kong maiden under Alexis Badel.
“It’s hard enough improving a horse off John Moore, let alone taking a horse like this, who had been winless for so long,” Whyte said. “He’s had the best riders on him – from this country and abroad.
“I took him over with an open mind – I never looked at a replay, I never judged him and trained him accordingly. From the minute I got him in my yard until he stepped out the gates, he’s been a dream and he’s a transformed horse. He’s never given me an ounce of a problem.
“Most of the credit has got to go to Luke and Jonathan the farriers – he’s had a few issues and we detected it and I’ve got to say thanks to them. They’re the ones who work behind the scenes but aren’t thanked enough – they made a significant difference with this horse.”
Amazing Kiwi had placed twice from his 10 starts last season and after a solid effort over 1,000m last week, the South African decided he would backup over 1,200m seven days later, something he did last season which resulted in one of his better runs.
It was more of a throw at the stumps than something done with supreme confidence as his starting price of $31 would indicate, but he got the prize thanks to a nice ride from Keith Yeung Ming-lun.
“I’m surprised. He’s always threatened to deliver something like that,” Whyte said. “His work at home is exceptional and his first run in Hong Kong was terrific – I think it was on [International Jockeys’ Championship] night and he ran second. But he’s never quite lived up to that first run.
“I’m just glad for Keith, because he’s been a fond friend of mine for a long time and I’m glad that he’s riding with such purpose at the moment.”
It completed a double for Yeung, who also tasted success with Caspar Fownes’ Royal Racer, the five-year-old atoning for a narrow defeat earlier this month.
“The draw helped us where it cost us last time – if he had a gate, he wins but it wasn’t to be,” the trainer said. “It all came together this time, I told [Yeung] to give him a really good warm up and dig, dig, dig to get on the leader’s back and take advantage of the good draw – don’t give it away.
“With the light weight at the bottom of Class Four I thought we’d have a really good chance and he’s given it a great ride.”
The result continued Fownes’ excellent start to the season and meant he went home with a win and a half to his name.
That may sound strange, but the rules for dead-heats changed in the off-season and now they are only worth half a win for trainers and jockeys in the championship table, rather than the full win they got previously.
The last dead-heat in Hong Kong came on November 20 last year and Fownes was also involved in that one, when his galloper Aurora Pegasus hit the line locked with Shining Ace at the Valley.
This time it was Fownes’ Jazz Steed (Chad Schofield) who shared the spoils with the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Shining On (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) in the Class Four Repulse Bay Handicap (1,200m).
There was another unique aspect about the dead-heat – because Ho had won the first event on Strapping Bauhinia and Schofield won the third aboard Farm Bumper, it meant there were two race-to-race doubles from the first three contests.
The other notable winner on the card was Jimmy Ting Koon-ho’s Amazing Star, who captured the last race to give apprentice Jerry Chau Chun-lok his first victory at the famous city track.