By Hans Ebert
@HansEbertMusic
Visit: www.hans-ebert.com

With the BMW HK Derby having been run and won but with some of us still suffering from the Waikuku Blues, a terrible affliction that causes having to microwave packaged curries and walk around the apartment on eggshells which can get messy when trying to make one’s way to the shower, one cannot help but think of Douglas Whyte. You read that right. Douglas Whyte.

Whereas much has been written about the great success achieved this season by Frankie Lor, all most definitely well-deserved, and where, in the fascinating battle for supremacy between the Sorcerer and the Apprentice, Hong Kong racing’s Harry Potter using his own wizardry and his Furore to win the big race, there were memories of the former champion rider all over Sha Tin.

They seemed to be there just to remind those who don’t miss these things that the shadow caste by Douglas Whyte is a very long one.

Two of the races were named after his Derby winners Akeed Mofeed and Super Satin, ridden for Richard Gibson and Caspar Fownes, respectively.

So, though Douglas Whyte wasn’t there at Sha Tin, he was. And he will be next season and is certain to be very much involved in that year’s Derby.

Sure, this season has many more months left to go and we’re seeing the dominance of Zac Purton with a very impressive extended cameo appearance by Silvestre De Sousa.

Joao Moreira? It doesn’t take an Einstein to say that De Sousa has won over the hearts and minds of many in Hong Kong- the HKJC, the public, owners, trainers, especially the rather taciturn (look it up) Tony Millard for whom the Brazilian has ridden a number of winners which others would not have been able to do.

Just watch De Sousa’s ride on Super Star to overhaul Joao Moreira on the odds on race favourite Invincible Missile. It was magic.

Speaking of which, and his controversial ride to some on, yes, Waikuku, perhaps because of all these stop, start appearances following a series of suspensions, the magic man is now the “magic man”- in inverted commas. Though having shaved the moustache and beard, something still seems to be missing.

On Sunday, he won on the certainty Full Of Beauty whereas four of his other rides that were sent out favourites, were overturned.

Joao Moreira is a very good rider, but over the last few meetings, there seems to be a jockey trying almost TOO hard to win. That once supreme confidence seems to have been replaced by a quiet desperation.

It’s not lost on owners and the Chinese racing media. One doubts it’s also not seen by those riders who once were intimidated by his incredible strike rate and ability to part the Red Seas, turn water into wine and feed the forty thousand. They can see that he’s mortal after all. Like Superman when struck down by kryptonite.

Meanwhile, as he displayed again on Sunday by winning aboard first starter Dan Control for well-known owner David Boehm, Zac Purton exudes a quiet confidence with superb rides. World class rides and chalking up winners on the scoreboard with great consistency.

None of this would be going unnoticed by Douglas Whyte. They might not admit it, but a few riders have had eureka moments and are trying to model themselves on him and trying to understand what made Douglas Whyte the champion he was.

There was the respect he commanded. And still does. His focus, determination, guile and the personality he crafted- not in any fake way for a photo opportunity, but always with a longtime plan which he has executed with great precision.

Ambitious? Nothing wrong with ambition. It’s better than waiting for doors to open by saying, “Open Sesame”.

Though there are the rumours of Chris Waller heading to Hong Kong in May and after Winx retires, all eyes will be on Douglas Whyte.

It’s an open secret that he was already training almost every time he trialled a galloper for an official trainer: Take off the blinkers, add a shadow roll, seems like he would be better suited at Happy Valley etc.

As a rider he would be remembered for how well he rode the tight city track, his intuitive positioning of his rides and very seldom resorting to “the persuader”.

Years ago, while talking about why he always took his rides away from everything and everyone else when behind the barriers and why he only showed them the whip, his answer was to the point: “Would you run faster if someone kept whipping you?”

Douglas Whyte learned from the best, possibly the most from riding for the late trainer Ivan Allan, below, an astute gentleman who led a colourful life. As a horse trainer? In a class of his own.

He learned from being stable jockey to Tony Cruz, watching and riding against legends like Michael Kinane, Gerald Mosse, Felix Coetzee and playing second fiddle to Basil Marcus.

There were the various on course rivalries, especially with Brett Prebble. More life lessons.

There’s the time he continues to make to learn by being around Monty Roberts.

There are all the side notes from doing his homework on every horse he rode- not just the champions. And though the partnership with John Size broke down badly, it would be churlish to say they both didn’t learn from each other. There has to be some form of mutual respect.

Even before announcing his retirement, Douglas Whyte was definitely thinking ahead without forgetting the past. It’s how he rolls.

These few months, he’s been watching and studying under the tutelage of trainer Mike De Kock. He’s studying and working with different mentors at Newmarket. He’ll soon be spending time in Melbourne with someone whom he learned much- riding for David Hayes, below, when the trainer was in Hong Kong.

When one puts all these pieces together and remembers everything he achieved as a jockey, it stands to reason that this same “strategy for success” will be repeated and tweaked as he returns to Hong Kong as Douglas Whyte, trainer.

At a young 48, the road ahead is one full of opportunities. The racing landscape has to be more than what it is for it to grow and finally be accepted into the much bigger world of sports entertainment and sponsorship. Douglas Whyte will be around to see all this.

While trainers and high ranking racing executives would have retired, there might even be different career opportunities for the former champion jockey to explore.

The question is who Douglas Whyte will choose for that ride together. When it comes to jockeys, Zac Purton? Why not?

“Yeezy” is often misunderstood. He’s worked darn hard to get to where he is today. Confidence is sometimes mistaken for arrogance. Think Douglas Whyte didn’t face the same criticism? Success always comes with a price tag. It’s about never having to apologise for being the best.

As for Team Whyte, will there be opportunities for Derek Leung and the grossly overlooked Matthew Chadwick? Chad Schofield? Alberto Sanna? The trust factor will be all important.

For Hong Kong racing, the on course rivalry with John Size will be fascinating to watch. This will be mixed with how the new sheriff in town Frankie Lor is attracting some of Hong Kong’s biggest horse owners.

Douglas Whyte’s sense of timing is impeccable. He seems to be at the right place with the right people at the right time. He’s like Batman but with no need for the Bat Signal. It’s about intuition.

The sudden partnership for the past two seasons with John Moore and winning for a number of the trainer’s high profile owners will come into play next season. Definitely.

Sade could have been singing “Smooth Operator” about Douglas Whyte.

Douglas Whyte. Enough said. At least for the time being.

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