Will Power for Whyte

Douglas Whyte’s fine first season continues.
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By David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club

Douglas Whyte’s good form continued with Will Power following up a mid-December debut win with a smart victory in the Class 4 Link Handicap (1200m, dirt).

The four-year-old’s win was Whyte’s 20th of his debut term, a haul that has prompted comparisons with Hong Kong’s next two most recent rookie handlers, Frankie Lor and Jimmy Ting. The former bagged a record first-season haul of 65 in 2017/18, while the latter tallied 38 wins last term.

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Whyte rolled out of the 1 January fixture with 19 on the board, while Lor had 31 at that stage of his first term and Ting had 22. But, as the former champion jockey pointed out, such bare comparisons lack depth.

“I’m not going to compare because then we should compare how many transfer horses I’ve had and how many older horses and younger horses and so forth, and how many runners I’ve had. I’m not comparing anything, I’m just trying to get the horses to the races in the best possible condition and hoping they let down and run well,” Whyte said.

“This season I didn’t set targets. I didn’t set a target the first season I was a jockey, it was just as many winners as I could possibly ride and from there on in I started setting targets.

“It’s a very new experience for me so as long as I can keep the horses healthy and more so in a happy condition, I’ll just keep turning them up to the races and hopefully they do their job.”

Whyte was delighted with top-weighted Will Power, who had to overhaul rivals down the home straight to win by two and a quarter lengths with his ears pricked.

“He’s improved but he still had to come and do it the hard way and bring up another good performance in order to win the way he did,” the trainer said.

“If there’s a race that presents itself on the dirt, why break a winning formula? If there’s not a dirt race, I’m not afraid of going to turf, he’s trialled well on it – I just hope there’s a bit of give in the ground because he does come down hard on his legs, and that would be the only concern, that he doesn’t let down like he does on the dirt.”

Zac Purton kept tabs on leader Moreira in the jockeys’ premiership with a double on Cheerful Star and Noble Steed, two days after his 37th birthday.

Purton edges the verdict on Cheerful Star.

The Australian’s 50th win of the campaign came when Cheerful Star (120lb) edged the Vincent Ho-ridden God Of Dragon (131lb) in a ding-dong battle for the Class 4 Leighton Handicap (1800m).

His 51st was achieved in the Po Leung Kuk Cup Handicap (1400m) aboard the Francis Lui-trained Noble Steed. Purton is two from two on the Hong Kong International Sale graduate, who held his rivals by three quarters of a length.

Premiership leader Ricky Yiu notched his 31st win this season when Encore Boy landed the Class 3 Hoi Ping Handicap (1200m) under Silvestre de Sousa.

Dennis Yip had a slow time of things through the early part of this season before unleashing four winners in December to accelerate his win accrual, and the handler got his 2020 tally rolling with the Matthew Poon-ridden Trust Me (118lb) in the Class 4 Yun Ping Handicap (1000m).

Ever Strong (132lb) relishes the Sha Tin dirt and notched his fourth win on the surface when taking the Class 5 Ventris Handicap (1200m, dirt) under Vincent Ho. That gave trainer Manfred Man his 10th win this term.

Baltic Whisper (128lb) ended his first Hong Kong campaign back in 2017/18 with two wins from six starts but Danny Shum’s charge had not posted a victory since March of that season until he showed resilience to land the Class 3 Sunning Handicap (1000m) this afternoon. The six-year-old tried to make all and rallied hard for jockey Grant van Niekerk when headed by Ka Ying Master (120lb), going on to score by a neck at odds of 7/1.

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 8 January.