THAT OLD WHYTE MAGIC…
Don’t cry for me, Argentina, and no matter what it might have looked like on the surface, and before the turn of events after Sunday’s races, no one should have been feeling sorry for Douglas Whyte about what some were saying: The jockey “losing” the rides on splash-for-cash zillionaire owner Pan Sutong.
As everyone knows, Douglas Whyte plays to win. Even when he loses, he, somehow, appears on the right side of the ledger. It’s how he rolls.
No, the thirteen-time champion jockey had not “lost” the rides on Pan Sutong’s Gold-Fun and Obliterator.
As is his style, Dougie Whyte was only looking after number one and saying nothing to anyone as there was nothing to say except let the rumour mill continue to chart its own course. It’s one of the key reasons why Douglas Whyte has stayed at the top of his game for so long and will never be someone who can be safely described as being “past it”.
Never one for shooting his mouth off in the media and being part of the incestuous rumour mongering that is part of the racing DNA anywhere in the world, Whyte is all about letting his riding skills do the talking. And very, very loudly as was the case on Sunday with a tremendous treble.
With word that Sutong was disappointed when his Gold-Fun, which Whyte had piloted to both of its Group 1 wins, didn’t beat the phenomenon that is Able Friend, there came a totally new game plan hatched for the galloper to compete in Sunday’s 1200 metre Chairman’s Sprint, somewhat of a surprise as it had never run in anything shorter than 1400 metres.
From being a top miler, it’s win on Sunday when tackling the 1200 metre Group 1 race, where Whyte was on one of the race favourites in the ironically named Peniaphobia- a fear of poverty- something which Pan Sutong does not suffer from. Far from it. Yes, no matter who might have huffed and puffed, Whyte was not getting off the Tony Cruz-trained galloper.
Being a shrewd operator who has always looked after Number One, and with a strong association with Cruz, Whyte, at this stage in his career, would not wish to jeapordize his objective to do something that alluded him for a long time: Ride Group 1 winners, or potential Group 1 winners before embarking on a career as a trainer. And if this plan fails, he can either go stomp grapes in his vineyard in Tuscany or, being a very wealthy man himself, invest in whatever the hell business he might wish to get involved in.
As for Pan Sutong, it’s his party and he’ll do as he wants. This included flying in one of the best jockeys in the world in Christophe Soumillon on his private jet to ride Gold-Fun and one of his latest purchases- Obliterator- in the 2000 metre Classic Cup, where Whyte stuck with Sutong’s Giant Treasure on which he almost won the race. That run probably makes it the favourite for the Hong Kong Derby.
While tipping our hats in the way of Richard Gibson for an incredible training effort to bring Gold-Fun back in distance to win the Chairman’s Sprint, one has to wonder out aloud what’s going through the mind of Pan Sutong.
Could he be weighing out who, in the future, will be his jockey for the big races- Whyte or Soumillon or retain the current status quo?
For the time being, Richard Gibson has astutely managed a delicate balancing act involving a winning partnership with a champion jockey he respects and needs in his corner, and keeping an owner happy- a very special owner able to purchase the best equine talent money can buy, or even able to purchase entire stud farms anywhere in the world.
Pan Sutong has made a meteoric rise in the business world with his Goldin Enterprises through which he has purchased the Sloane Estate winery in Napa Valley for an estimated US$40 million, three other wineries in Bordeaux, and has opened a polo club in Mainland China. Word has it that he has also purchased significant prime real estate on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
In Australia, his purchase of a significant chunk of the magnificent Hayes’ family Lindsay Park estate in South Australia, which is being transformed with a “no limit” open cheque funding to create a showpiece world class stud farm – Goldin Farm, with an equally world class golf course and polo field- has emphatically spelt out his intentions to be not just the biggest, but also the best player in the game that he chooses.
Though his willingness to sponsor a Group 1 race in Hong Kong for big bucks was turned down, Pan Sutong, like the Qataris, has now bought himself into UK racing by sponsoring a feature race during Royal Ascot week- and where Christophe Soumillon is certain to be riding.
With John Size throwing a spanner in the works when Whyte piloted his Luger to a win after a three-month absence from the races, and which is also aimed at the Hong Kong Derby, which way will Hong Kong’s thirteen time Champion Jockey go? Is he spoilt for choice or caught between a rock and a hard place?
Add to this the next race Gold-Fun will tackle- and which will be back to 1400 metres. It’s not a decision or choice that Whyte has never found himself confronted with before. Remember Super Satin, when he did pull the right rein?
Sure, the more you have to make choices, and difficult ones at that, the more the probability that you will get one or two wrong. But when you do, you move on, and just make sure you get the next one right.
Will Whyte be “allowed” to jump back on Gold-Fun, or has this ride now become the property of Christophe Soumillon, a longtime favourite of local punters- and the HKJC?
Fascinating stuff that not even Hollywood could have scripted better.
SIZING UP THE SITUATION
John Size training half the the winners of the race card at Shatin on Sunday is something that should never ever be overshadowed by the disappointing performances of the Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only and Peniaphobia and a day that saw Romantic Touch look like a Happy Valley horse.
For Size to bring his Luger- and Size’s prowess with his own Luger is the stuff of legends- saw the master horseman do what he does best: Patiently look after a horse with untapped potential, bring it back to racing after a three month absence from a reported heart irregularity, and with regular rider Douglas Whyte aboard, see it beat a very good field of gallopers.
Of course, the fallout of the ultra-successful Size-Whyte partnership has already been talked about too much to go into it again here.
Sure, like the Size-Shane Dye years made way for the Whyte-Size era, there came a time when “merde” happens and, as in a marriage, one party outgrows the other, or there is a mutual decision to “do a Moses” and part ways. And what may or may not have happened behind closed doors and long distance phone calls, both, jockey and trainer, have been professional about the split and gone on with business.
The Long Run had to end with each side looking out for Number One- and only some Pollyanna will say there’s something wrong with that.
There are those who look at Hong Kong racing and talk about its fickleness- the trainer and jockey go-rounds manipulated and demanded by owners. But why not? They own “the product” or “property” and decide when to buy, sell or change.
With the arrival here of Joao Moreira, John Size made that tough- or easy- call to go with the best- and end the partnership with Whyte.
The Moreira-Size relationship after a relatively short time seems a more flexible one with Moreira playing more of a true freelance role accepting rides on top class horses from other stables and Size using jockeys like Teetan, Rawiller and Demuro when Moreira is unavailable.
Was there disloyalty to Whyte? No, it’s nothing personal, it’s business, and in any business, if something has run its course, it’s time to avoid the icebergs.
While the tenacious Dougie Whyte has gone on to achieve what he was missing out on with Size- riding Group 1 winners- his partnership with Richard Gibson soon put that straight with wins aboard Akeed Mofeed, and Gold-Fun.
The latter winning Sunday’s Chairman’s Sprint on the former Whyte regular mount, which was ridden by Christophe Soumillon, underlined the uncertainties of horse racing and why, one day- and soon- there will be a new script turned into a tell-all movie and show there’s life after what was becoming a great series on horse racing in HBO’s short-circuited mini series, “Luck.”
As for John Size, life goes on. It’s business as usual with Joao Moreira being his jockey of choice and great support thrown behind Karis Teetan, especially, and Nash Rawiller.
All have delivered as did Douglas Whyte on Sunday aboard Luger. Nothing stays forever, and to those who expect loyalty at all costs, grow up: Loyalty, like most things these days, is like a commodity on the stock exchange – traded at the right time and, often, at the right price. Everyone looks after Number One.
FLINDELL TO RETURN TO OZ
It’s been building up for almost three years, but as mentioned recently in a NSW racing gossip column, Darren Flindell, one of THE best racecallers in the world, has thrown in the towel, and will return to Oz and a possible gig in Sydney.
We’ve always been big fans of the Big Fella, who, apart from being our favourite race caller, also heads up The Three Amigos, hosts of the HKJC-produced Racing To Win programme.
The production of Racing To Win has been subject of much open and vocal criticism over the years by those who have worked and appeared on it for its lack of almost everything and where the Chinese version took priority.
Flindell’s decision to pull the pin and throw the grenade has, apparently, to do with this dog’s breakfast, and the production of the ‘live’ Trackside programme where the always entertainingly outspoken Flindell has not been holding much back in recent weeks. It’s probably his final hurrah and as Don Henley sang, “I will not go quietly.”
THE LONGINES HONG KONG MASTERS (AND NEIL CALLAN)
FROM THE RACING TWITTERVERSE