Douglas Whyte is a titan of Hong Kong racing so it is perhaps fitting that a horse named for the Greek god Adonis should go down in the record books as the former riding great’s first winner as a trainer.
“It’s phenomenal. It’s fantastic!” Whyte said after the six-year-old had chosen the most opportune moment to break his own maiden. That came in just the second race at Hong Kong’s season opener today (Sunday, 1 September), the Class 5 Mount Parker Handicap (1200m), and the second of the 13-time champion jockey’s new career.
“It’s lovely to have the support and to be able to achieve my first winner on the first day; it’s Hong Kong, this is my home, so it’s a special feeling,” he continued.
Whyte’s first Hong Kong win as a rider was Fireball, 23 years ago this month, and the South African found comparison between that historic marker and today’s breakthrough victory.
“It’s just as emotional, it’s a good feeling,” he said. “I’m a lot more mature now and I’ve had a lot of success since, so to have a winner as a trainer, it’s not about that, it’s about the effort and the time that’s gone into this horse.”
Whyte has long enjoyed a deserved reputation as a horseman of impressive talent and understanding and that was apparent in his post-race comments about Adonis, one of 26 off-season stable transfers that have swelled his stable numbers to 47.
“He’s been a very difficult horse to ride and I’ve been the only one on him every single day,” the trainer said. “That, for me, is satisfaction. I can’t tell you how much satisfaction that is: when a horse learns to trust you and you can change it around from a horse that used to take off with his head up, to put his head down and enjoy work; it’s not about the Class 5, it’s not about anything, it’s about the individual that I’ve got to actually start to enjoy racing.
“He’s been showing me how much he’s been able to turn the corner the last two weeks. If you’d asked me two weeks ago was I going to run him, I’d have said absolutely not. I didn’t even trial him because I knew if I trialled him it could work him up too much, so I’ve just been slow-working him, a couple of canters and one jump out.”