Horse Racing
Whyte’s young guns fire first-up at Sha Tin

By David Morgan
21/12/2019 18:30

Douglas Whyte has his newcomers in fine order.
Douglas Whyte has his newcomers in fine order.

Douglas Whyte is fast developing a reputation as a trainer well capable of readying young prospects for early success.

The South African has 56 horses in his stable, 27 of which were unraced in Hong Kong prior to today’s (21 December) pre-Christmas Sha Tin meeting, and, following on the heels of Will Power’s first-up win seven days ago, the rookie handler delivered Inner Flame and Xponential for step-out victories.

“It’s ticking over nicely,” Whyte said. “I’ve indicated for a while now that it was going to be exciting when my new ones step out and they’re all running races that I would have expected them to have. If a couple of them hadn’t run like they have I’d be disappointed because they are showing me pretty good work in the mornings.”

Inner Flame, race favourite at odds of 2.2, set the ball rolling in section two of the Class 4 Ho Sheung Heung Handicap (1200m).

“It gives you a good feeling when they win like that, the work that you put in it pays off,” Whyte said after the four-year-old’s two-length score.

Inner Flame scores under Alexis Badel.
Inner Flame scores under Alexis Badel.

Whyte, a legend of the Hong Kong jockeys’ room with 13 championships to his name, was not surprised to see the Zoustar chestnut land the spoils under Alexis Badel.

“He’s shown me at home that he’s got the ability to produce an effort like he did today. He’s had some really good educational trials and the writing was on the wall for everybody to see,” Whyte said.

Inner Flame tracked outside the leader until that rival began to fade, and, with nothing else in a position to tow him any further, kicked on resolutely down the home straight.

“It’s a handy effort from a new horse, hitting the front a long way out. I only know from experience, when I used to ride them, if you hit the front at the top of the straight you are vulnerable and he did a good job to keep going,” Whyte observed.

“I think I can press on with him. I’ve given him a good foundation and he’s had a solid build-up into this so I’d be surprised if he wasn’t improving from this race.”

Xponential drives late to edge the result.

Three races later, Xponential (127lb) repeated his stablemate’s first-up feat with a late-lunging win in section one of the Class 4 Ho Sheung Heung Handicap (1200m). Chad Schofield’s mount pipped top-weight Fantasy (133lb) by a head to prevail at odds of 47/1.

“We didn’t expect him to finish the way he did but he’s done everything right in the mornings and he’s certainly improved the most of my young ones. He had to dig deep today, come through a tight gap and show a bit of tenacity to put his head in front,” Whyte said of the Equiano four-year-old.

“I’m probably inclined to step him up to seven furlongs now. They went hard, which allowed him to finish the race off and I think he’s going to improve immensely out of that, he’ll come out with a bit of confidence as well. I think I’d be silly to go six (furlongs) again.”

Badel, meanwhile, left the track with a brace in the bag thanks to Glorious Dragon’s (114lb) late drive to victory in the Class 2 Beas River Handicap (2000m).

The Tony Millard-trained four-year-old rifled past his former stablemate, the now John Moore-trained Chefano (115lb), who was consigned to second place for the fourth time from five runs this term.

Patch takes Applause

Computer Patch wrestles victory from Beauty Applause.

Computer Patch (128lb) and Beauty Applause (133lb) served up a ding-dong thriller for the Class 3 Pearce Memorial Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m), the latter prevailing just six days after placing second on his Hong Kong debut.

“The original plan was to give him his first run today but the owner had some other runners on the 15th and asked to run him there. I didn’t think he had a hard run so that’s why I opted to back him up here today,” Moore said of his promising charge, the 1.5 favourite.

Computer Patch under Zac Purton pressed the front-running Beauty Applause as the pair led the field off the home turn and knuckled down for a long duel to the line.

“He was gone at the 200 (metres), he was really out on his feet, gassed, and he did a good job to tough it out and get the result,” Purton said.

Beauty Applause had to dig deep for Joao Moreira in an attempt to repel his rival but Computer Patch – tried in G2 company pre-import – found extra to edge the verdict by a short-head.

“He’s only about 90% fit but I think talent just kicked in – he’s a really smart one in the making,” Moore said. “If he goes up six pounds, he’ll likely go to a Class 2 over 1200m on 19 January.”

Three in a row for Duke Wai

Duke Wai makes it a hat-trick under Karis Teetan.
Duke Wai makes it a hat-trick under Karis Teetan.

Duke Wai hit overdrive late in the play to land his third win on the bounce in the Class 3 Long Valley Handicap (1000m), sealing a double for trainer Paul O’Sullivan.

“The 1000 metres is getting him out of his comfort zone so we’ll look to go a little bit further. He’s much improved from last season, like a lot of horses do, and he’s done a great job,” O’Sullivan said.

As well as a step up in distance, the handler is now more than likely looking at a step up to Class 2 for his four-year-old, rated 75 for this afternoon’s task under Karis Teetan.

“I think at about his third start, when he just went whoosh the last bit, I thought he was probably better than Class 4, he really did accelerate,” O’Sullivan said.

“He’s come back bigger and stronger this season; he hasn’t had many races so he should handle himself in Class 2. And horses that can handle themselves in Class 2 in Hong Kong, you take your hat off to them, especially if they’ve come from a rating of 52.

O’Sullivan’s Liverbird Star (125lb) won the opener, the Class 5 Jockey Club Road Handicap (1600m), for the Friends Of Liverpool Syndicate. The five-year-old fended off the grinding closer Money Winner (122lb) to break his maiden under Derek Leung at the 14th attempt, by three quarters of a length.

Neil Callan celebrates his sixth win of the season.
Neil Callan celebrates his sixth win of the season.

King’s Man’s tough success in the Class 4 Kwu Tung Handicap (1800m) ensured Ricky Yiu will enjoy Christmas as Hong Kong’s leading trainer. He had Neil Callan to thank to for his 26th win of the term, the Irishman delivering a trademark ride of belligerent strength to get the seven-year-old gelding home by a short-head and the same in a bobbing finish.

But Yiu was not finished. He notched win 27 in the finale thanks to a cheeky Grant van Niekerk ride atop the front-running Simple Elegant. The gelding’s success in the Class 3 Yin Kong Handicap (1400m) was his third from four runs this campaign.

Dennis Yip collected a race-to-race double thanks to Fire And Gold (117lb) and Sam’s Choice (123lb), taking his season’s tally to eight.

The former opened his account at start 19, winning the Class 5 Ng Tung River Handicap (1200m) cosily under Moreira. The latter, meanwhile, dug deep for Purton to win the Class 4 Kam Tsin Handicap (1400m) from the Moreira-ridden three-year-old Leap Of Faith (125lb).

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Thursday, 26 December.