It’s been said time and time again, even by some of his fiercest detractors, that when it comes to being the consummate professional and a great ambassador for Hong Kong racing, jockey Douglas Whyte is in a class of his own.
Sure, the buzz today along with the bells and whistles and cheering squads are for the Brazilian Magic Man- Joao Moreira- and the Australian Zac Attack- Zac Purton- and very deservingly so as both are truly world class jockeys who have breathed new fire into Hong Kong racing which really is International- and being International, the best racing jurisdiction in the world and not mired in the “tall poppy syndrome”.
In all the hoopla of what looks like being a two-horse race for this season’s Jockey Premiership, let’s never lose sight of The Durban Demon and his many accomplishments including winning thirteen consecutive Hong Kong Jockey Premierships, a record which will never ever be broken and which belongs in the Guinness Book Of World Records.
What makes Douglas Whyte tick and tock and The King Of The Turf?
His great mate off the track and one-time fierce competitor, on track- the legendary Felix Coetzee- puts it down to his fellow South African’s determination, discipline and never knowing when to give up along, of course, with Whyte’s natural talent.
Here’s what we admire about Douglas Whyte, who arrived in Hong Kong as a complete unknown- like Dylan’s Rolling Stone- before being “talent spotted” by trainers David Hayes, Wong Tang-ping and the great Ivan Allen: His determination to keep improving, never resting on his laurels and knowing that every day, one learns something new, and, which is why, with Felix Coetzee, he made the time some years ago to be mentored by Monty Roberts, below, the famous Horse Whisperer, where he learnt more about horses along with some important life lessons.
As for horses and understanding these beautiful animals, because of his time spent with The Horse Whisperer, there is a reason why Dougie Whyte takes his mount away from the others before a race and why he rarely resorts to using the “persuader”.
As he asks, rhetorically, “Would you run faster if someone is whipping your arse?”
Well, now that you ask, no, Dougie.
Apart from his punctuality and great role model and father to his two children, there’s also his laconic honesty.
When asked about his reputation for jumping on and off horses and being ruthless when pursuing rides, he’ll lean back, take a puff from one of his beloved cigars and ask, “Mate, if you had the choice of riding a very good horse or being loyal and going around on an average one, which one would you choose?”
After a highly successful working relationship with John Size, the trainer-jockey partnership ended this season.
Frankly, the timing was right as, here were still very good friends, but with different priorities.
To those who thought the Size artillery of horse power was what was responsible for Whyte’s success- for thirteen years???- this breakup was the signal for his detractors to ring the bells of doom and do a little dance, make a little love and get down tonight.
Napoleon had met his Waterloo, Samson had lost his locks to Delilah and Douglas Whyte had lost his Golden Goose. Or so they thought.
Looking out for Number One, which includes his family- and nothing wrong with that as family comes first- it was Dougie Whyte only shifting career gears and focussing on quality instead of quantity and looking at what had eluded him: riding Group 1 winners on a regular basis, something which came to the fore on Hong Kong’s International Race Day last year when he won the Hong Kong Mile on Glorious Days, ironically for John Size, and, in the next race, took out the prestigious Longines Hong Kong Cup on the Richard Gibson-trained Akeed Mofeed.
This Sunday at Shatin, Douglas Whyte rode four winners- it could easily have been a quintet- for trainers Tony Cruz, Richard Gibson, YS Tsui and Michael Chang- which proved, once again, that Size doesn’t matter.
Each winner was ridden differently- from good barriers, from wide barriers, on the pace, off the pace, on the inside, down the outside and which had someone tweet that Hong Kong racing fans were being treated to the “Douglas Whyte clinic”.
It really was a crash course in riding for every young jockey coming through the ranks and taught by a champion bloke and a champion jockey, who lost his father in a tragic car accident when he was nine, went through the rigors of South Africa’s apprentice school of hard knocks and then, came, saw and conquered Hong Kong.
What’s scary is when he says, “Mate, I’m still hungry! I thrive on competition! I love it when they write me off!”
It’s scary ‘cos Dougie Whyte has that wind in his sails blowing hard again.
While praising Zac Purton’s own magnificent foursome at Happy Valley last Wednesday (“His riding was outstanding”) and respecting the talent of Joao Moreira and his rapid ascension in Hong Kong’s tremendously competitive racing environment where only the strong survive, one can’t help thinking that Dougie Whyte plans to crash the two-horse party and race and prove, that at 43, the Durban Demon is ready to breathe fire again.