Douglas Whyte admits he got his hopes up when Russian Emperor dashed for home in Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong Cup, but the South African shouldn’t have to wait too much longer in the quest for his first Group One as a trainer.
Putting Golden Sixty’s emphatic display to one side, the next best performance from the locals at the Hong Kong International Races probably came from Russian Emperor, his gallant third to star Japanese mare Loves Only You suggesting his day in the sun is not far away.
The run gets even better considering he’s finished less than a length behind quality Japanese runner-up Hishi Iguazi and a neck in front of talented British three-year-old Dubai Honour.
Russian Emperor was three-wide with cover in transit before exploding to the lead at the top of the straight and only getting run down late in the HK$30 million contest – the city’s richest race.
Sayonara, girl!— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 13, 2021
Loves Only You #ラヴズオンリーユー recorded the perfect farewell to her storied career in the @LONGINES Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin yesterday. @netkeiba #競馬 | #HKIR #HKracing pic.twitter.com/ESN9y4reIN
“When you turn for home and he quickened the way he quickened – and I saw [Loves Only You] get held up – I got pretty excited, but unfortunately it’s a long straight,” the 13-time champion jockey said.
“He’s threatened to do things like that – you can see in the Derby he ran a terrific race [when second to Sky Darci]. He always seems to come good around this time of the year and this time of his preparation – his third or fourth run.
“With a run like that you’re disappointed but you’re over the moon at the same time. He looked the winner until the 200m mark but the Japanese horses are bloody good horses, they’re proven Group One horses, so it was a hell of a run.”
February’s Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup at the same course and distance is the next assignment on Russian Emperor’s radar and given there will be no internationals flying in, he’d have to go in as one of the leading hopes.
“That’s the plan at the moment. It looks the logical choice. We’ll give him a short break now and [head there],” Whyte said.
The 50-year-old, who is into his third season as a handler after a glittering career in the saddle, takes five runners to Happy Valley on Wednesday night and rates Falcon Turbo and Turin Redstar as his two best chances.
“Falcon Turbo is in great form, unfortunately he’s drawn a wide gate so he’s got his work cut out,” he said.
“Turin Redstar comes back from Conghua freshened-up, he had a good trial last week and he’s got a decent gate and that’s going to help his chances.”
Turin Redstar lines up in the Class Three Mars Handicap (1,650m), coming up against the in-form Cheerful Days, who is chasing a fourth consecutive win.
Matthew Poon Ming-fai takes the ride on Francis Lui Kin-wai’s five-year-old and he is optimistic he can overcome barrier 11.
“His last three starts he’s run really well and he didn’t have a good draw in any of them but he likes to get back and finish off strong so the wide draw again shouldn’t affect him too much,” Poon said.
“Hopefully the pace is on and he can settle into a nice rhythm and we’d like to see him finish strong again.”