By Hans Ebert



Maybe it’s what Douglas Whyte didn’t see and what some of us kept in check that mattered most at Happy Valley last night.

Some of us have grown up with the South African legend. We might not be those who ride horses, or even follow horse racing, but perhaps without him knowing it, his successes have inspired us. Inspired us to better ourselves. And so watching him before and after his ride on Good Omen, one of three rides for the night, and his best chance of riding a winner which was not to be, some of us thought about our own life journeys.

This gave us the emotional attachment we shall always have with this brilliant rider.

It’s a strange bittersweet moment. A time for reflection. Those moments so personal one goes into that memory bank and thinks of one’s own life journey. If only horse racing could bottle this feeling.

To those of us who have known Douglas Whyte going all the way back to him arriving in Hong Kong as an unknown at the advice of the late racing writer Robin Parke, it’s been about seizing the moment and turning it into two decades of crafting out a career that has evolved and continues to evolve.

For myself, being friends with Douglas has been a reminder that one can only trust very very few. As he’s always said, “Mate, you can trust those on one hand minus a few fingers.” It’s served me well.

I trusted and still trust Douglas. Especially in the often fickle and selfish world of horse racing where one is only as good as your last winner.

When there was that one particular period when longtime partnerships were starting to unravel for him, how Douglas Whyte had to admit that he had been let down by those he trusted. It was a bitter pill to swallow and work out what happens next. It showed that “inner resolve” often mentioned but rarely understood.

His situation made me look at my own career path and “fact check” those around me- those fair weathered friends, false promises while the Backstabbers sang in the background.

Douglas, realising that all those warnings about change being around the corner and how almost nothing lasts forever said much about the man. He had been to the top of the mountain. He had seen it all in his chosen field and was now forced to face some home truths.

The year when his reign as Champion Hong Kong Jockey for thirteen consecutive years had come to an end at the hands of young gun Zac Purton was

something I watched from the outside looking in.

Zac was brilliant and ruthless and inspired in winning his first Hong Kong Jockey Championship. He deserved it. Zac was as relentless and determined as Douglas was, especially in 2010 when he and Brett Prebble had the most titanic battle for riding supremacy.

With a handful of race meetings left, Prebble seemed to have an unassailable lead- a lead of around 10-12 winners. Chatting at our favourite meeting place at the time- the Blue Bar of the Four Seasons hotel- what will always live with me was Douglas telling me and Kristine, my girlfriend at the time, that there was nothing to think twice about. That he was going to win the Championship.

We didn’t think he would, but, yes, he did, yes he did, yes he did. Brett Prebble blinked first. Mistake.

With every race meeting left, Douglas whittled down that lead. Kristine would give me updates. I thought it was Mission: Impossible though willing him on.

I was going through career changes. And evaluating various relationships. Were they holding me back from where I wanted to go next?

Meanwhile, Douglas kept riding doubles and trebles and was suddenly neck and neck with Brett Prebble before taking that Championship by one winner.

It was and remains one of the great comebacks in sports. That win deserved and still deserves more recognition. Too often, horse racing is clueless about marketing itself to the outside world. It stunts itself with navel gazing.

A couple of years later came a strange time when some wanted Douglas Whyte to fail. Familiarity breeds contempt. Too much success is a dangerous thing.

The Viper Room was in full swing. The King was dethroned. It was like Wyatt Earp hanging up his guns while Dylan sang “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Mama, take these guns offa me”…

CNN wanted to interview the new King- Zac Purton. Douglas Whyte was left to watch what was going on from the sidelines. It must have been hard to absorb. Something new to accept. But as anyone who knows anything about Douglas Whyte knows, he wasn’t throwing in the towel. Far from it.

Despite the murder of crows hovering over him during those days playing their own version of Game Of Thrones, Douglas Whyte was regrouping.

He was balancing out his family life, being a terrific father, spending his breaks with the Horse Whisperer- Monty Roberts- listening, learning, and staying as focused and determined as ever.

It’s easy to use terms like “consummate professional.” It’s damn hard to be one.

Douglas Whyte is an inspiration. Being the “consummate professional” is only part of the whole. He’s much much more. Things that cannot be defined. It’s about being black and Whyte. It’s being a book with many chapters- chapters that still haven’t been written.

And that’s what’s interesting. Watching What’s Next.

What’s Next for Douglas Whyte is whatever he wants it to be.

Horse racing hasn’t lost Douglas Whyte. Far from it. Horse racing has gained a game changer. Perhaps the game changer it needs.

Proud of you, bud. You know I don’t say that to just anyone.

#DouglasWhyte #HKracing #horseracing #legend #HKJC #BrettPrebble #ZacPurton #HansEbert