It was a night of achievements for the fledgling Douglas Whyte stable on Wednesday night as the South African trained his first treble and his star apprentice Jerry Chau Chun-lok matched the feat to outride his seven-pound claim.
The two combined with promising duo Harmony Fire and McLucky while the champion jockey-turned-trainer also saluted with Noble Delight (Matthew Poon Ming-fai) and his protégé lifted Total Power home for David Hall.
While they are not the ultimate goals either aspire to, they are important little milestones that need to be ticked off on the way, which is exactly how Whyte approached the moment.
“It’s nice to have a treble, it means a lot [and] it’s good for Jerry, he’s riding with confidence,” the second-season handler said.
Chau’s milestone came almost a year to the day after his Hong Kong debut and even though he’s struggled with suspension at times, he has continued to collect winners with 46 to his credit from 456 rides, including 39 this season.
The 21-year-old will now claim just five pounds until he reaches 70 victories and while it may seem counter-intuitive, Whyte thinks it will actually help in the short-term.
“Having five pounds now is going to be more beneficial for him because he’s going to get more opportunities. He’s slightly heavier than your normal apprentice so he’s been restricted to rides at around 120 [pounds] and now he can take rides at 118,” he said.
“He’s a hard worker, he’s got a lovely style and he’s riding horses with a bit of thought. He’s put his head into things and it’s showing.”
There it is! @JerryChau15 lowers his seven-pound apprentice claim to five as he bags his 45th Hong Kong win, this time scoring aboard Total Power for trainer David Hall. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/UIXfKMnfYa— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) May 5, 2021
Whyte has struck form again himself with seven winners from the past six meetings after a frustrating run of three months when he had just four victories and 34 placings.
“You can go to the races and you can be beat a shorthead and run second five times, nobody recognises that your horses have run well,” he said.
“It was just a horrible, lean, ‘second-syndrome’ that I was going through. I think the horses have held their form, I’m happy with the way things are going and I’m glad to have gained a bit of momentum.”
Smart three-year-old Harmony Fire looks to have a bit of upside after securing his second win from four starts in the Class Four Ma Tau Kok Handicap (1,000m).
“The horse has been luckless, he’s had very awkward draws to contend with and he’s run with purpose each time. So when he got gate one tonight, it was a lot less complicated, he put himself in a winnable position and he delivered,” Whyte said.
“He shows the talent that he can [step up to Class Three]. There’s no rush with him, I think he’s a nice horse going forward.”
Australian import McLucky seems to be in a similar boat, securing his first Hong Kong win at his third run in the first section of the Class Three Hung Hom Bay Handicap (1,200m).
“It’s more about becoming accustomed to the Hong Kong racing style,” Whyte said. “He’s been a little bit aware of a few things so he’s come a long way.”
Noble Desire does not belong in the same category as his two stablemates but maybe provided a greater level of satisfaction after finally breaking his maiden at start 20 in the opening event.
“He’s an honest horse but he’s been a handful to train,” Whyte said. “He needs a horse to follow – as soon as he puts his head in front he thinks his job is done. I’ll take that win with both hands. He doesn’t want to be in front for very long.”
Alexis Badel and Danny Shum Chap-shing were the others leaving Happy Valley with multiple winners, the former prevailing with the Francis Lui-trained Sunny Star and the latter tasting success with Exuberant (Zac Purton) before the two combined aboard Handsome Bo Bo in the last.