Trainer Douglas Whyte has turned to his apprentice Jerry Chau Chun-lok in a bid to reignite the lightly raced Inner Flame after a recent performance that left him “dumbfounded”.
After winning four of his first five starts, the five-year-old faded badly under the top weight in his first-up run this season and Whyte hopes Chau’s claim can provide some welcome relief for the son of Zoustar in the second section of the Class Three Lai Kok Handicap (1,200m).
“I was totally dumbfounded by the run. Every horse is allowed to be forgiven for a bad run in his career, he had an excuse when he did run a bad race [last season] because he smashed his head on the gates,” Whyte said, referencing Inner Flame’s only failure in his debut campaign.
“But this particular run he came back clean, we couldn’t find anything that could have caused him to run disappointingly. It was just a mystery, it was just one of those runs where I can’t really put a finger on anything.
“He is a fairly inexperienced horse if you look at how many runs he’s had and I just thought a bit of relief from my apprentice might benefit him.”
Inner Flame began the season on a mark of 80 and retains that rating despite his last-start 10th, giving Whyte the option to run him in either Class Two or Class Three.
“I think if I had of gone to Class Two he gets a light weight and he would have been very competitive but he gets his chance in Class Three with the 10 pounds off, hence the reason I opted for that route,” Whyte said.
“Jerry’s riding well, he started the season off a little bit slower but he’s riding very well at the moment, he’s got his confidence back and he knows the horse.
“He’s been around him at the yard, he’s seen him. I’m pretty much the only one that gallops him because he’s can be a bit of a handful in the mornings, in a good way, but still a handful.
“He knows the horse and he’s trialled him before so it’ll be good to give the kid a chance, he deserves it because he is riding well.”
Another galloper Whyte and Chau team up with is Private Rocket in the first section of the Class Three Lai Kok Handicap (1,200m), with the four-year-old stepping out for the first time this season after saluting under the apprentice at his last appearance in July.
Also among Whyte’s seven runners on Sunday is Valiant Elegance, who steps up to 1,200m for the first time in the Class Four Pak Tin Handicap.
The four-year-old gelding finished three and a quarter lengths behind Fabulous Eight down the Sha Tin straight three weeks ago and Whyte hopes the step-up in trip will suit him.
“His first run he was disappointing because he had a throat problem, he’s had surgery since and thanks to [Jockey Club vet] Paul Robinson and his team, they have done a fantastic job of getting him back to the track and it’s been a successful job,” Whyte said.
“His first-up run I thought was encouraging, he’s a horse that needs further and it’s time for him. He looks and feels like he’s going to be a 1,400m horse, possibly a miler, but I think 1,200m is a good place to start.”