Douglas Whyte celebrates with the crowd at Sha Tin following his first win as a trainer. Photo by HKJC.


Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Why Whyte’s first win mattered so much

By Michael Cox (@KemblaCoxy), at Sha Tin.



Michael Cox’s HK Six-Up: Each week Michael Cox unpacks six stories from Hong Kong racing. 


Not all Class 5 wins are created equally and yesterday’s career-first victory by jockey-cum-trainer Douglas Whyte was much more than a feel good story for the new fan favourite.

Of course there was that feel good factor  – there’s nothing like a day one win – but for Whyte to win with a stable transfer like Adonis, a horse that looks to have some more room to move ratings-wise, could provide some freedom for the trainer.

Whyte has a well-balanced roster for the start of the season with enough transfers like Adonis to get wins out of early, but also leaving enough room for a healthy number of unraced stock.

While he can keep winning with the transfers, creating a buzz and building his brand, he can buy time to pick and choose with the youngsters, practicing horse-first patience and placing them to advantage.

The owner Whyte won for was also significant: Johnson Chen – best known as owner of former star Werther – is one of an ever-decreasing number of owners with a cheque book big enough to compete for the high end Hong Kong Derby contenders out of Australia and Europe.

With the prices for quality tried horses out of both hemispheres booming in recent years, it takes some serious wealth to compete and it seems the group of owners capable – or at least willing – to splash upwards of A$2.5million for a Hong Kong Derby-type is shrinking.

Less than a day after Adonis’s Whyte was giving Chen’s other horse in his keep – a HK$4.8million sales-topping ISG purchase named Noble Consort – its first jump-out.

Whyte was still buzzing at trackwork on Monday morning after his debut success and says it is the satisfaction he derives from being hands-on with horses that is giving him the biggest kick.

“To train a winner for Johnson, a guy who has been around and raced a champion stayer, it doesn’t matter what class it is very satisfying,” Whyte said.

“But what really stands out is the experience with the horse himself. I have been on his back everyday, and for a horse to trust you and turn everything around in his mannerisms is what gives me the most satisfaction. The results showed, he is a transformed horse.”




Regency Legend wins impressively again under Zac Purton. Photo by HKJC.


One of the pressures inherent in being top jockey, especially in a “fishbowl” like Hong Kong, are the big race decisions and when Regency Legend surged into Hong Kong Sprint calculations on Sunday it signaled a potential clash for Zac Purton.

Purton is the regular rider of John Moore-trained Aethero, the new star of Hong Kong racing: returning as a three-year-old, already a winner of three-from-three and drawing comparisons with the trainer’s former great Able Friend.

Regency Legend was dominant when he stretched his unbeaten Hong Kong record to four with a win in the Chief Executive’s Cup, pushing him to a rating of 111 and into group race territory.

Moore says the 89-rated Aethero will resume in a Class 2 on October 1 and added that he won’t be stretched to a mile this time in, even if that will be the horse’s best trip in time. That’s no surprise given Moore and Purton have superstar Beauty Generation riding a nine-race winning streak.

That means the two may not clash for a while yet, with the G2 Premier Bowl on October 20 the earliest possible meeting.

One factor to consider for Purton is Regency Legend’s apparent propensity to internal bleeds, with Sunday the second time the four-year-old has produced a post-race scope showing significant blood on trachea.

The other factor, at least next start, might be weight: if Regency Legend steps out in a Group 3 handicap against some big guns, it is likely he will be down in the weights and out of Purton’s range. All that said, Regency Legend’s trainer Danny Shum has indicated that his horse might be kept fresh for the Jockey Club Sprint on November 17.



If Aldo Domeyer’s wild, wayward riding in the closing stages aboard Sunshine Warrior looked like a man in need of a drink, maybe it was, with the South African missing the rest of the day due to dehydration.

Domeyer’s driving finish and resulted interference with runner-up Casimiro was the subject a rather optimistic protest by Joao Moreira that was ultimately dismissed, but the South African jockey was still slapped with a four meeting ban for careless riding the stewards believed bordered on reckless.



It seems Vincent Ho’s off-season sojourn to ride in the Shergar Cup and a stint at Mark Johnston’s yard has improved the leading local rider’s feathery touch and those soft hands should help Sunday’s impressive winner Golden Sixty when he stretches out to 1400m again.

Ho had a breakout season in 2018-19 with 56 wins to finish fourth in the jockeys’ championship, but took a busman’s holiday to England and notched an impressive six wins from 22 rides.

It is clear Ho’s off-season trips have helped add to his skillset, with the 29-year-old showing silky feel to bring Golden Sixty from back in the running on Sunday.

Golden Sixty had won three from three when he stepped up to 1400m for the first time before pre-race nerves and a slightly ungenerous racing manner brought him undone as 2.5 favourite late last season.

When Golden Sixty steps up in trip, which he will on a path towards the 2020 Hong Kong Classic Mile, Ho expects the son of Medaglia d’Oro to equip himself better.

“I think he will be fine this time around,” Ho said. “He is better when you can get him in behind horses now, he just drops his head. He sweated up badly before that start late last season and now he is much more mature and confident in himself.”



The Hong Kong Jockey Club are world leaders when it comes to transparency. Trackwork records and times, extensive post-race stewards reports and gear changes of myriad types are published on the HKJC website. But is it time the club start publishing information on shoes? Gold Chest’s form turnaround on Sunday was certainly testament to the old adage “no hoof, no horse”.

Gold Chest struggled to acclimatise to Sha Tin’s tough environment last season and the basis of the poor form was feet problems, as is the case with many European imports.

Trainer Richard Gibson revealed on Monday the horse has switched from glue-on shoes, used on horses with problem hooves, to conventional, nailed-on, racing plates this season.

Would the info have made a difference to those assessing the race? Well, information about the condition of horses’ feet is an important enough factor for professional betting teams to have paddock watchers note pre-race hoof condition and types of racing plates, so perhaps the same information should be granted to public.



Yee Cheong Baby won impressively twice at Happy Valley last season. Photo by HKJC.


There is no racing this Wednesday but racing returns on Sunday at Sha Tin where Jimmy Ting’s impressive sprinter Yee Cheong Baby is a surprise entry for a dirt race.

Formerly known as Neutrality when with Peter and Paul Snowden in Sydney, Yee Cheong Baby mixed it in top class company, finishing second to Graff in last year’s San Domenico Stakes.

The flashy chestnut hit the ground running with two wins from as many starts at Happy Valley last season, rising to a rating of 97, and resumes in a 1200m Class 2 on the dirt.

Zac Purton has been aboard for all of the four-year-old’s serious work during the off-season and again for an eye-catching dirt trial on a wet slow surface last week.




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