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

To their credit, they have been professional enough not to air any dirty laundry and have never mentioned a word about the end of one of the most successful partnerships in Hong Kong racing and which helped each win their respective championships.

The end of the John Size-Douglas Whyte partnership was very much “silent running” and a slow fade to black, which came and went and saw Joao Moreira, who had taken all before him in Singapore and needed now fields to plunder, suddenly in Hong Kong to show everyone why Size mattered.

This mission was accomplished immediately. The red carpet was rolled out for the mercurial Brazilian rider, Jeremy Green worked in the background to ensure that Moreira was aboard gallopers with chances- gallopers mainly for the John Size yard- and the Magic Man delivered. Over and over again. Overnight, every racing jurisdiction wanted some of that magic to rub off on them and bring back the crowds.

During those years when still riding and the Size-Moreira Happy Meal very much a McSuccess, it couldn’t have been easy for Douglas Whyte. He not only lost his thirteen year reign as champion Hong Kong jockey to arch rival and the somewhat l’enfant terrible known as Zac Purton, but also became something of a Yesterday’s Man and had to join the rest of the field and go hunting for rides. You know what they say about how once you’ve been to the top of the mountain…

Still, never one to give up despite the loudest whispers that he was “too old” and had “lost his edge”, Douglas Whyte persevered almost knowing what lay ahead- him becoming a trainer.

When, especially during his last couple of seasons as a jockey and the breakdown of the retainer between John Moore and Tommy Berry, Whyte allied himself with the champion and veteran trainer by doing quite a bit of riding for him and winning on horses like Hair Trigger and Styling City.

For many, it looked as if the jockey was preparing for a new role as Assistant Trainer before taking over the John Moore stable once the trainer reached compulsory retirement age- which is this year.

Few know Douglas Whyte. He dreams big and he makes these dreams happen. Being an Assistant Trainer for even a legend like John Moore even as a stepping stone? That just didn’t seem big enough for Douglas Whyte. He had other plans.

This happened when out of left field, he was offered his own trainer’s license- and the cue to gracefully retire from race riding- but never from competing. And to be the best at competing as a trainer, he made the time to travel around the world and learn and pick up hints from some of the best.

Of course, even when riding horses like Born In China and those gallopers with “Iron” in their names, he was- and let’s not kid ourselves- very much trainer-jockey. He knows how to work it. Always did.

Still fresh in my mind is having a nice Red at the Blue Bar of the Four Seasons one afternoon and making small talk when Whyte saw someone at a nearby table. I saw it coming: “Sorry, mate, I’ll be back in a tick. Just saw an owner and I must talk to him about riding his horse”. And he did.

When involved with that titanic battle with Brett Prebble for the Jockeys Championship and the former all but home with what looked like an unassailable lead and a handful of meetings to go, my girlfriend at that time- a big fan of the rider- and myself asked if he had even the remotest chance of overhauling the tear away leader. He just smiled and winked. “Of course” came the reply. “He’ll choke”.

Whether he “choked” or not, who knows. What was important was that Douglas Whyte won another Hong Kong Jockeys Championship.

Today, the interest with racing writers is on a number of issues, especially with all the “social unrest” Hong Kong is working its way through and which has impacted attendance figures, but not turnover.

There are column inches devoted to the leading jockeys, but the person who’s captured the imagination of the local race goers, the heavy hitters amongst the owners and the riders knowing whose support they need is Douglas Whyte- Douglas Whyte, the trainer.

As for his relationship with one-time friend and working and business partner John Size, it’s cordial. Both respect each other as professionals.

Telling was when there was that tribute to Douglas Whyte on his last day of riding and plenty of bon homie with everyone joining in, there was no John Size.

Sure, John Size spoke glowingly to the media about Whyte and his achievements, but he wasn’t going to bury the hatchet and join a chorus line he didn’t believe in.

And so, here we have it today- again, John Size and Douglas Whyte, but this time in different corners and assuming different roles. Nothing lasts forever.

Douglas Whyte won’t win the Trainers Championship this season. But he should be in the top five- a huge achievement considering that he doesn’t have stables in Conghua. But knowing something about Douglas Whyte, this season is a very important practice run and a brilliant introduction to his new career as trainer.

By the end of this season, he’ll handpick from the conga line of owners hoping he accepts them as part of his stable. And he will- but only those he wants and on his terms.

The same goes for the jockeys he’ll use- and not always the most successful, but those he believes suits his horses.

Just think of the riders he hasn’t used. That speaks volumes. Then think of the trust and praise he’s placed and lavished on those riders needing a break to prove themselves with rides with a winning chance- Regan Bayliss, Alberto Sanna, apprentice Alfred Chan, and Lyle Hewitson, below.

He rides track work, he gets into the heads of his charges, no doubt something he learned from spending much of his off-season time when riding with Monty Roberts aka The Horse Whisperer.

There are then all those years riding as stable jockey for Tony Cruz, watching and listening and learning from the great Ivan Allen, riding against the world’s best and winning those big races on London News, Akeed Mofeed, Super Satin and so many more.

It has to be said that Hong Kong racing has had its champions. But, perhaps apart from Tony Cruz, never ever someone like Douglas Whyte. Why? Because he’s unique- unique as a horseman, but here’s the difference: He’s knowledgeable about every facet of horse racing. He’s nobody’s fool and trusts only family. It’s the only support system he needs.

It would be no surprise to one day perhaps see him become a key racing executive- and an extremely successful one. Again, he’s learned from the best. But one would think his lot in life would be around horses- of course, training them, winning for his owners, and being successful overseas with champion gallopers. It all helps the bank account- not that Douglas Whyte is hurting for money.

For the immediate future, what has to happen is when Douglas Whyte decides to make it a priority to challenge every trainer for the championship title.

What will be riveting viewing will be the personal competition for supremacy and pride when two gunslingers who have created their own horse opera square off.

Will Size matter, or will Whyte lightning strike?

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