It wasn’t the fairytale ending to a brilliant career in the saddle, but as we bade farewell to jockey Douglas Whyte at Sha Tin today and speeches were made and videos shown, for some of us, it was a time for self-reflection. About just how far one has travelled and what the rest of the journey might be like. How there might be a need for changes to make this part of the journey interesting enough.

It was a very different Hong Kong when Douglas Whyte arrived here. It was a far more exciting city. A city full of hope, demanding positive change and with this Can Do spirit that’s often mentioned about Hong Kong and its people. That inner resolve. That everything was possible.

While Douglas Whyte was finding his feet and with no one predicting that he would one day be a champion Hong Kong jockey, let alone repeating this feat for thirteen consecutive years, ruling the roost was another South African- Basil Marcus.

Horse racing was and has always been closely intertwined with what made and makes Hong Kong. But back then, it was a far more forward looking city. Everything seemed better- the nightlife, the lifestyle, the melting pot of people. Like a Sister Sledge song, We were family. And as a family, a chain was only as strong as its weakest link. And any and all weak links were not tolerated.

Back then, even marriages seemed stronger. At least on the surface. And if these failed, love was always better the second time around.

Everything was thriving- the advertising, film and music industries. The clubs, before them, the discos, and places like Lan Kwai Fong. Many of us were busy creating. We were enjoying the process. The camaraderie.

Some of us were fortunate enough to dine with kings and queens, but more importantly, learn from meeting people like Sammy Davis Jr, Bowie, Prince, Peter Sellers, Quincy Jones, Lennon. And okay, Britt Ekland.

Not even the SARS crisis slowed Hong Kong down.

The Handover came and went. Those who fled Hong Kong expecting the worst returned. Why?There’s no place like home.

They, all of us, picked up from where we left off and came together from very different backgrounds to create a new Made In Hong Kong product.

Today’s Hong Kong? It needs work. Lots of it. It needs a serious makeover. That Can Do spirit needs to make a comeback.

Of course nothing stays the same. But as Douglas Whyte has proven in his chosen field, it’s what you make of what’s been handed to you. Take everything in stride. Stumble, and pick yourself up again.

Look backwards only to remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished and the work and challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

As always, Thanks for the inspiration and the time for self reflection, Douglas. If only so many in Hong Kong could understand everything you’ve been through and how nothing in life was and will ever be served on a silver platter. That only happens in fairy tales.

See you soon, bud.

Hans

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