It’s hard to imagine, but Douglas Whyte, once king of all he surveyed and who owned the Hong Kong Jockey Premiership for thirteen consecutive years, goes in to this evening’s Happy Wednesday Wines In The Valley meeting with just the one ride- Hero Look in race 3 on the eight race card. Wait: Victory Machine has been withdrawn in the last, and Whyte gets to hang around and ride the replacement runner Prince Harmony.

Sure, times change, athletes get older, reflexes become slower, and as the great Roger Federer remarked this week, that at 36 years of age, he believed he was too old to be favourite to win the Australian Open.

Still, one would think that Douglas Whyte would have a loyal army of owners for whom he must have won plenty of races other than Ranjan Mahtani. Guess not. The Durban Demon won the 2010 Hong Kong Derby for the owner on Super Satin and Mahtani has stayed firm as a loyal support system.

Loyalty and horse racing is often an oxymoron. It’s where one is only as good as that last win and where, if the good fung shui has run out, it’s out with the old and in with the new. If this “new” might also have to do with going through a baptism of fire, then on Saturday, in a very bizarre incident that was nonchalantly glossed over, Tommy Berry was not only doused with kerosene and set alight, he lost out on a winning ride for his retained stable- that of John Moore. Follow this if possible…

With Moore on the Gold Coast for Magic Millions week, the winning ride on Moore’s Hair Trigger went to-hello- Douglas Whyte. Assistant Trainer and former jockey Terry Wong Chi-kin had put down Whyte’s name for the ride. But how and why?

Nothing has been said other than John Moore asking Tommy Berry why he wasn’t riding Hair Trigger- because he was not the rider elected by the stable representative- and then a justifiably upset Berry being quoted as saying, “I said to Terry maybe he should get a job with Dougie and not John”. Soooooo…

Curiouser and curiouser, Alice, especially when Tommy Berry had won on the horse over the same course and distance as Saturday- a rare win for the popular rider for his retained stable and more fodder for the local rumour mill to chew the cud over.

Tommy Berry is professional enough to put on a brave front and deal with the hand he’s been given. That all important family support on his side to keep the dark clouds from closing in has definitely helped. But one wonders for how long he can go through missing out on winning rides that were rightfully his when he could be back at home in Sydney, and not only riding against old mates like Brenton Avdulla, Timmy Clark, Josh Parr, Tye Angland etc, but also riding winners. There’s something about the Hair Trigger riding engagement that simply doesn’t make sense.

With Zac Purton recently winning the January Cup on Eagle’s Way and offered first refusal to ride the horse at its next start plus Moore’s stable stars including Werther supposedly not going his way, what’s Tommy Berry supposed to do? Keep picking up the crumbs until he becomes toast? The odds of this happening? Guess.

While Douglas Whyte makes cameo appearances like the ghost of Christmas past, and the Chinese racing media having already called time on the Moore-Berry partnership, it’s also been tough going for a few other expat jockeys with their former support systems going elsewhere.

Local jockeys, especially Derek Leung, and unbelievable as it might seem, apprentice Dylan Mo’s who has improved lengths from his early days riding here when trying to steer his mounts in the right direction and not cause any traffic jams, are receiving good strong support from all stables. Derek Leung deserves it and it’s good to see.

With The Poon Train, though on a somewhat unreliable schedule these days and Keith Yeung, certainly no slouch in the saddle, not exactly hurting for rides, there could be signs of quiet desperation in some quarters.

For example, after everything he achieved last season, especially when riding for John Moore, Sam Clipperton, an extremely fine young rider, deserves far more winning opportunities than he has been receiving this year.

Hopefully, these will come from John Size, who has shown considerable strength of character in his support of Olivier Delouze and the often underrated and under-utilised Matthew Chadwick. Even better to see is this support being repaid.

Adding to the fickleness of owners- and can one really blame them when they pay to play and play to win?- has been the consistent strike rate of Umberto Rispoli, below, and the recent successes of visiting riders Pierre-Charles Boudot and Alexis Badel. The last two have quickly become flavours of the month whereas we’re tipping The Italian Job to be right up there next season. Local owners enjoy their Italian cuisine and they also enjoy servings of Rispoli.

Boudot, who, according to newspaper reports, replaced Douglas Whyte on Saturday following the insistence of the owner on the David Ferraris trained winner Ambitious Heart, is impressing many whereas it would be no surprise to see Badel back in Hong Kong next season on a more permanent basis.

This really is a season of change with no one quite sure how and where Joao Moreira might decide to divide his time. But with the very inviting Hong Kong lifestyle, having to only pay around 15 percent in taxes and extremely generous horse owners so long as the good fung shui doesn’t run out, we can’t see him making any hasty moves.

As for racing this evening, it’s another Joao-less meeting. And though Happy Valley has hardly been happy hunting grounds for the mercurial Brazilian and champion Hong Kong Jockey, he does bring a certain enchilada of charisma and excitement to the races.

What we have today is a more level playing field with Zac Purton certain to be favourite to win the Jockey Challenge, but as we should know by now, always expect the unexpected on a Happy Wednesday night. One never ever knows how the night is going to end. And that’s what makes attending the races a fun evening out.

Zero Hedge (3)
Lunar Zephyr (11)
Split Of A Second (9)
Showing Character (12)

Winning Controller (4)
Cash Courier (9)
Happy Friendship (12)
Goal For Gold (2)

Bingo (12)
Peace On Earth (9)
All Best Friends (2)
Magic Success (7)

Planet Star (8)
Sichuan Boss (5)
Don’t Miss (6)
Glory Star (12)

Master Bernini (7)
High Volatility (4)
Fruitful Life (11)
Crown Avenue (2)

Royal Mojito (11)
Powermax (8)
Phantom Falcon (12)
Diamond Master (10)

Generous Heart (9)
Calculation (3)
Ishvara (8)
Imperial Gallantry (1)

Flying Tourbillon (3)
Star Of Joy (9)
Blaze Stamina (4)
Extremely Fun (1)




R3: 2,7,9,12
R4: 1,5,6,8,12
R5: 4
R6: 8,10,11,12
R7: 3,8,9
R8: 1,3,4,9


#HKJC #HappyWednesday #HongKong #HongKongHorseRacing #DouglasWhyte #JohnMoore #TommyBerry #ZacPurton