The small stuff first: The real bummer about trying to find a winner at Sha Tin tomorrow afternoon is that Douglas Whyte doesn’t have a ride in the last. As has been proven, especially during the last two meetings, the Durban Demon has made these races all his. Saved his best for last like some of us do when playing Eyes Wide Shut. It’s kinky stuff.
Last Sunday, Whyte strolled home to win on Encouraging while on Wednesday night he made all the right moves to win the curtain closer on Dances With Dragons, a rare ride for trainer Peter Ho. And lest we forget, who won the last race of last season by “beating off” Joao Moreira and Zac Purton in one of the best finishes ever seen in Hong Kong? That is, a Happy Ending finish in horse racing.
Some people just can’t help being LOUD. And at the Champagne Bar of the Grand Hyatt, it was where many LOUD people congregated during HKIR week. Many from overseas. It was tough to take.
On Sunday, after the last race at Sha Tin had been run and horse racing’s “Woodstock Generation” was heading home came a booming voice how Hong Kong racing had “found its mojo again.” Maybe it had. Maybe it was just hiding. Often, it’s all about timing. Whatever.
Rightly or wrongly, the word “malaise” was used by me recently to describe the state of horse racing. Horse racing everywhere.
This had nothing to do with the exploits of Winx, Enable, Cracksman, Beauty Generation, the brilliantly produced Cox Plate Day presentation for overseas consumption and the derring do in the saddle of riders like James McDonald, Tim Clark, Brenton Avdulla, Hugh Bowman, Kerrin McEvoy, John Allen, Ben Thompson, Damien Oliver, Craig Williams etc and outside of Australia, Frankie Dettori, Oisin Murphy, William Buick, Ryan Moore, Zac Purton, Joao Moreira and Christophe Lemaire.
Remember that old saying about striking while the iron’s hot?
So, for about a week, there were the Chinese whispers that Joao Moreira would be back. Riding in Hong Kong. A Sayonara to Japan. And there were hosannas from the high! The Brazilian Magic Man was coming back! It was gonna be a conga line of Carnivale de Rio!
That was around September. And where are we now? Not much further from September.
“You missed the best ride I have seen by a jockey.” It was a message sent by someone relatively new to horse racing. A female in her late Twenties. French Chinese. A regular at a Happy Wednesday meeting. Someone met around three years ago for the first time at Adrenaline when helping her fill out a Six Up ticket. She was talking about Douglas Whyte’s winning ride last night at Happy Valley on the John Moore trained Good Beauty.
Though out of Hong Kong, I had watched a replay of the race. To say it was vintage Douglas Whyte wouldn’t be doing the ride nor the rider justice. And certainly not to those still learning about the incredible career of the legendary South African rider. About how very very few ride the idiosyncratic city track better. Possibly no one.
Douglas Whyte rode his 1800th winner in Hong Kong on Sunday. The name of the horse: Good Omen. The ride was vintage Whyte. Second last for much of the journey. Watching everything in front of him unfold. Then, with perfect timing, taking Good Omen out wide. Gathering in the leaders. Never resorting to the persuader. Riding the gelding to the line. Hard held. Easing it down. Made it look so easy.
Good Omen. His 1800th winner. What an incredible accomplishment. What a great Feel Good story. Good Omen. Trained by one of his main support systems during those Whyte Years. Dennis Yip.
Too often they get lost in the shuffle. Lost in the column inches and tweets and talk and innuendos given to the the current jockey merry-go-round. But this season in particular, the equine talent in Hong Kong has never been better. Never has there been a better crop. They’ve come of age. A crop of extremely good young gallopers. Gallopers who could be anything.
There was the facile win of Glorious Forever at Sha Tin last Sunday. Glorious Forever. The younger brother of English import Time Warp who came into his own last season.
Ok, let that sink in for a minute. Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly. Why, right? And why this weird combination? Something that’s come right outta Left Field. Personal thoughts? Absolutely fabulous. Daring to be randomly different.
It’s kinda like those Pop and Rock albums turned to mush by ageing celebrities like Telly Savalas. William Shatner. Pat Boone. Leonard Nimoy. Those recordings all had a certain kitsch value. Joao Moreira returning to Hong Kong to be stable jockey for Champion trainer John Size after leaving to fulfil his lifetime dream to ride in Japan, doesn’t have kitsch value. But it’s certainly caught many off guard.