The man who shredded Hong Kong racing’s record books is aiming to help an old ally to a significant milestone at Happy Valley on Wednesday (23 January).
Douglas Whyte spent a hectic Tuesday morning explaining his impending retirement from the saddle but it will be business as usual as he bids to help Francis Lui get the one success he needs to reach 600 winners spread across more than 20 years as a trainer.
Whyte’s arrival in Hong Kong in 1996 coincided with the start of Lui’s training career and the pair have joined forces to good effect on many occasions.
“Francis has been a great supporter of mine and we’ve had a lot of good days,” said the most successful rider in Hong Kong history.
“He’s a quiet guy who does a thorough job and gave me the 500th winner of my Hong career on Members Glory back in 2003. We go back a long way, so it would be great to give him his 600th winner to return the favour.”
Whyte will partner Alpha Hedge for Lui in the Siu Sai Wan Handicap (1650m) and also gets the leg up on stablemate Happy Time in the Son Kon Po Handicap (1200m).
“They’ve both drawn decent gates and go there in good heart,” he said. “Alpha Hedge moves up to 1650m after a good run at Sha Tin, while Happy Time can play up at the gates but he was strong at the line last time and it would mean a lot to get him home for Francis.”
Ho hoping to see Cannon fire again
John Moore, Tony Cruz, John Size, Caspar Fownes, Dennis Yip and Ricky Yiu are longstanding members of the 600-club, while Tony Millard was also welcomed into the fold recently.
Vincent Ho has been Lui’s most successful jockey this season – partnering eight of his 11 winners – and the in-form rider feels Golden Cannon could add to the total in the Sham Shui Po Handicap (1650m).
“Golden Cannon should have won last start at the Valley,” Ho said. “I got held up in the run and then he came home really strongly. He’s kept his form so from stall six I’m hoping to slot in midfield and let him run home without finding trouble.”
Ho links up with Lui again aboard Racing Luck in the closing Tai Hang Tung Handicap (1650m) but fears the recent course and distance winner will have to live up to his name to follow up.
“He managed to win from stall 11 two weeks ago and now we are even wider in gate 12,” he added. “We got very lucky last time as we were able to slot in one off the fence but you can’t rely on that so let’s see if the luck is with us this time.”
Can Conghua help Charisma?
Trainer John Moore’s Helene Charisma arrived in Hong Kong having beaten subsequent G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up Cloth Of Stars and G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Talismanic in the 2016 G1 Grand Prix de Paris. The six-year-old has also finished ahead of some of Hong Kong’s biggest stars including Beauty Generation, Designs On Rome and Eagle Way.
But the gelding’s subsequent fall from grace has been slow and sure and on Wednesday he lines up in the Class 3 Southorn Handicap (1800m) racing off a mark of 74, still winless after 26 starts in the city.
The six-year-old did, however, finish a good third at Sha Tin on his latest start and has spent most of the last seven weeks in a more relaxed environment at Conghua.
Whyte was in the saddle for his latest run and takes the reins again.
The 13-time champion said: “Some horses take so long to win that they become thinkers and you never know which Helene Charisma will turn up.
“If the real one of a couple of years ago turns up he could demolish the field but it all depends on what frame of mind he’s in. He’s had issues but I was on him this morning (Tuesday) and he’s come back from Conghua with his coat looking good and fresh and well in himself.”
Travel Datuk is another European import who has come down in the world and his Hong Kong record – currently 0-28 – sounds a note of caution ahead of the Class 4 Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Cup (1200m).
However, a low draw can be helpful over 1200m on the Valley’s C course and Matthew Chadwick feels stall one is a plus.
“He’s a funny horse who travels well but doesn’t hit the line as well as he could,” he said. “It’s always the same case scenario wherever he runs but the barrier will help and hopefully someone will take the lead and he’ll show a bit more turn of foot.”