Douglas Whyte is an iconic figure in Hong Kong racing, a competitor of supreme focus whose abilities and mastery of the circuit yielded 13 consecutive champion jockey titles up to 2013.
The South African’s successes down the years make him the all-time top earner in the jockeys’ room, his mounts having banked an ice-cool HK$1.5 billion in stakes money. Already far and away the Hong Kong jockey with the most career wins to his name, on Sunday (28 October) at Happy Valley Whyte will aim to pass another milestone.
This past Wednesday at the city track, the man they call “The Durban Demon” crouched low over the David Ferraris-trained Electric Lightning and drove through the line to take his Hong Kong win tally to 1,799. Rounding up is the goal this weekend.
“I’ve got some awkward draws, and I’ll need a bit of luck to go my way, but let’s hope I can do it on Sunday,” Whyte said at Sha Tin on Friday morning.
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The 46-year-old has come through some lean spells in recent seasons, and retirement rumours intermittently do the rounds, but he currently sits fifth in the premiership with eight wins on the board. And with his all-time tally more than 900 clear of nearest pursuer Zac Purton, he admitted that this latest landmark had not blinked on his radar until recently.
“Up until a couple of weeks ago, when someone said I only had four or five to go, I thought I was still quite a way off,” he said. “Going into races I’m not conscious of it, really – of course, I’m aware of it because everyone talks about it and it’s a lovely figure to get to but it’s not something I’m focussing all of my attention on.
“It certainly will be a good goal to achieve.”
Whyte has a book of seven rides on the 10-race card. One of those is the John Moore-trained Storm Signal in the Class 3 Ma Wan Handicap (1000m), a last start winner at the course and distance for the former champion.
“It’s difficult because he’s gone up (eight points) in the handicap and the draw (11) has done us no favours, but the horse himself seems to be in similar order and he won with a bit of authority last time,” he said.
“A lot will depend on luck and how he breaks. He’s carrying 133lb now so if I had to ride him in a similar fashion as last time – on the lead – it might tell in the end. Hopefully the speed is on so I can get in and get a good cart into the race and then I think he can give a good account of himself.”
Teetan hot on the heels of Purton
Karis Teetan was in charismatic form when landing a double at the Valley on Wednesday, saluting the cameras as he approached the line on the Class 5 winner Trendiful.
The Mauritian is three wins behind Purton at this early stage of the title race and will look to make inroads with the champion one of five riders on the suspended list. He partners the game Gunnison (128lb) in the last, the Class 2 Chai Wan Kok Handicap (1200m).
John Size’s diminutive chestnut, a G2 winner in Australia as a juvenile, ran on to fourth place over 1000m at the track two and a half weeks ago. That was the four-year-old’s first start this term.
“I think it was a good run – the 1000 metres was a little bit short for him. He came out of a good draw and couldn’t keep a better position so he flew home pretty late,” Teetan said.
And the jockey believes the step up to 1200m is favourable.
“He’s done better over that distance before and I think he’s going the right way,” he said.
“He gives you a good feel when you ride him – he’s very small but he’s got a beautiful action on him. I think he’s the type of horse that took a little bit of time to adapt but this season he’s stronger and mentally he’s got better and I’m really looking forward to riding him.”
Gunnison will face 12 rivals including the Danny Shum-trained Super Hoppy (123lb), winner of his last three starts and the mount of 5lb apprentice Dylan Mo.
In the afternoon’s other Class 2, the Kap Shui Mun Handicap (1650m), Umberto Rispoli is set to take the reins on Circuit Glory, a welcome ride for the powerful Tony Cruz stable.
“It helps when I can ride for a trainer like Tony – every race meeting he’s having two or three winners and I really appreciate this chance he’s giving me,” said Rispoli, who has just two wins so far this campaign.
“Circuit Glory has deserved a good draw and he has it (gate 2),” the Italian said. “His last win was quite good and once he hit the front it looked like he stopped a little bit so he might still have something in the tank. The priority is this horse needs a good pace on.”
Sunday’s fixture is the only Happy Valley day meeting this season and the action starts at 12.45pm with the Class 5 Yau Kom Tau Handicap (2200m).
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