Horse Racing
Whyte’s relishing Dubai challenge with Russian Emperor

By Declan Schuster in Dubai
22/03/2023 18:30

Douglas Whyte rode 1,813 winners in Hong Kong across a decorated career in the saddle.
Douglas Whyte rode 1,813 winners in Hong Kong across a decorated career in the saddle.

Douglas Whyte has made a swift and successful transition to the training ranks with a swag of top-level successes already under his belt, however, this Saturday night (25 March) the former 13-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey will saddle stable star Russian Emperor for one of his toughest tests to date in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at Meydan.

Whyte’s trained over 150 winners so far, collected a trio of Group 1 wins in Hong Kong, while last month Russian Emperor gave the trainer a first overseas success as his first runner to race abroad in the QAT G1 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) at Al Rayyan in Doha, Qatar.

“It’s a big difference (being back in Dubai as a trainer), I have a lot of responsibilities now. You don’t realise when you’re a jockey how much input it takes to get a horse over here in a healthy condition, let alone get them to run competitively. It’s been a challenge and a very interesting one, it’s something I love doing and it’s great to be here,” Whyte said.

Whyte has never been one to shirk a challenge. He thrives under pressure and his dominance of Hong Kong racing for 13 seasons attests to his ability of doing so, but travelling a horse as a trainer has proven an entirely new but rewarding experience.

“It’s been great, it’s been an honour as jockey to represent Hong Kong but having your first horse go international and be able to pull it off – it’s probably one of the highlights of my career,” Whyte said.

Russian Emperor and Senor Toba were Hong Kong’s first runners in Qatar. Whyte rode a handful of times throughout his career in Dubai – placing second in the 2015 G1 Al Quoz Sprint aboard Peniaphobia when the contest was run over 1000m.

“Alberto (Sanna) rode a good race on him (Russian Emperor) – he got rolling at the right time and he got his momentum up and from that race he’s lifted his game and he has had to. I’m happy with his condition,” Whyte said.

Russian Emperor is a two-time winner in Hong Kong at Group 1 level.
Russian Emperor is a two-time winner in Hong Kong at Group 1 level.

Russian Emperor was victorious in Qatar, but he turned heads last start in the G1 Jebel Hatta (1800m) at Meydan on Super Saturday this month, closing from the tail of the field to cross the line in fifth position over an unsuitable distance.

“I know my horse is healthy, his run on Super Saturday was fantastic. He’s going into the race in great condition or as best condition as I can possibly have him.

“You’re lining up against some of the best horses in the world and a lot is going to boil down to the barrier draws later this evening. However, if my horse runs competitively and can do himself and Hong Kong proud then I would be more than happy with that kind of performance,” Whyte said. 

Advantaged with the ability to ride his own horses in work, Whyte galloped Russian Emperor alongside Senor Toba on the turf course at Meydan yesterday morning (Tuesday, 21 March).

“A lot (his best form) has to do with the ground underneath, he does lift his game when the conditions are slightly more forgiving. I sat on him yesterday morning and it (the surface) seemed in great order – there’s give in the ground and he stretched out well,” Whyte said.

Russian Emperor came out for light work this morning (Wednesday, 22 March) under Whyte following yesterday’s hit out.

“I’m very happy – he’ll be back on the main track tomorrow morning (Thursday, 23 March) and I’ll be on him again. He’ll just have a good stretch around, he’s a fit horse and there’s not much more I can do with him now, now it’s just about keeping him in cotton wool and getting to race day,” Whyte said.

Glorious Dragon limbers up on Meydan turf

Glorious Dragon stretches out under Neil Callan.
Glorious Dragon stretches out under Neil Callan.

Neil Callan returned pleased after Glorious Dragon completed a crucial piece of fast work alongside Duke Wai on the turf course at Meydan this morning (Wednesday, 22 March).

Glorious Dragon and Duke Wai set off down the back stretch before turning into the spacious Meydan home straight. The grey strode clear of his stablemate under Callan, who partnered him for the first time ahead of Saturday’s (25 March) G1 Dubai Turf (1800m).

“Glorious Dragon feels good. Obviously I have never sat on the horse but I have watched his Hong Kong career, he was still racing in Hong Kong when I was there and he was always quite headstrong and a free going type of horse but I think he has settled down with age,” Callan said.

Glorious Dragon faces a mammoth task this weekend when he lines up against Danon Beluga, Do Deuce, Lord North and more. The Teofilo gelding has finished fourth at Group 1 level before but a string of injuries across his career has forced interruptions – racing only three times since December, 2021.

“We’re under no illusion here, the competition is very strong and it’s going to be very tough. He feels very well and if we can nick some prize money then anything after that is a bonus.

“I think the different surroundings here might just refresh his mind and the track here is not as firm as Sha Tin – that in itself, when horses tend to get a little older they tend to appreciate a little bit of cushion in the track,” Callan said.

Across a decade in Hong Kong, Callan rode 276 winners in the city and is best known for his association with star stayer Blazing Speed.

“In some way in the future I was hoping that I would get some connection back to Hong Kong because the support that I had there over the years was pretty special.

“I think now that I am here and with the opportunity in Dubai to ride for Pierre – who is a first season trainer – he’s doing extremely well, and it has made me very happy to come and represent him, the owners and Hong Kong.

“It’s more of an affinity to the Hong Kong racing fans, it comes more to my heart than anything,” Callan said. “Because you know how passionate they are on race day in Hong Kong.”

Duke Wai is Pierre Ng’s other contender this weekend in Dubai.
Duke Wai is Pierre Ng’s other contender this weekend in Dubai.

Callan – who is now based in Great Britain – remains unsurprised that Ng is enjoying a fruitful first season in the challenging Hong Kong racing cauldron and that the freshman trainer will this weekend be chanced with overseas success.

“He (Pierre) said that he (Glorious Dragon) had travelled over well and settled in very quickly and he’s been riding him out himself – I think that’s a great addition for him to be able to ride his horses on the track.

“He’s had a great association with horses like Aerovelocity with Paul O’Sullivan, so it’s not new, I always thought he was very clever and that he was always going to make a very good trainer and he’s showing that now in his first season.

“The fact that so early in his career he has got onto the international stage, I’m in awe of him with how quick it has come around for him,” Callan said.