By Hans Ebert

Douglas Whyte is Hong Kong racing’s answer to Spider-Man and I’m not budging from this line of thinking. But before expanding on this…

“Cop THAT for a ride!” Race caller Mark McNamara was awestruck by the ride of Joao Moreira on the race favourite Simply Fluke to win the fourth race at Happy Valley last Wednesday.

Drawn the outside barrier, the Magic Man was caught wide. So, instead of going forward, he snagged the horse back to last and watched the charge of the light brigade take place out in the front. The smiling assassin must have been giggling to himself.

With perfect timing, the brilliant Brazilian rider angled Simply Fluke out wide and had his galloper do the rest: win. And win easily. It was the second time in a row that Simply Fluke had drawn out wide, but still won, though this time needing a very different ride.

What’s interesting is that this was Simply Fluke’s second consecutive win since connections decided to move their previously winless purchase from trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong to champion jockey-turned-trainer Douglas Whyte.

It should be remembered that Yip was a vital part of his support group when Whyte was riding high as Hong Kong’s champion jockey- that is until switching allegiances to a then-rampant Zac Attack hell-bent on winning his first Hong Kong Jockey Championship in 2013. He succeeded. And Dennis Yip Chor-hong won his first Trainers title.

It must have been a hard pill for the all-conquering Whyte to swallow. And now, officially a trainer, and wondering why he couldn’t have become this city’s first jockey-trainer 2-3 years earlier- it’s no secret how his advice to several trainers improved their horses- Douglas Whyte is in a position to launch “takeover bids” to build up his stable. There are no non compete clauses. Django is unchained.

With great power comes great responsibility, sure. Add to this, big opportunities. All’s fair in love and war and business. Horse racing is a pastime for some, a business for others. It’s a business for Douglas Whyte where he is the Chairman and the Board of his corporation. The buck stops with him.

With this in mind, what’s always interesting is how Whyte does all of his runners’ track work, decides on which riders suit each of his horses- and the riders who he is still to use. The latter list is very telling when one considers he has given rides to even battlers, but not thrown even a crumb to more high profile names. He never will.

There’s then his blossoming partnership with Joao Moreira. This is somewhat surprising as it was the Magic Man who accidentally short-circuited Whyte from bowing out a winner on his last ride as a jockey in a very memorable finish.

Then again, mutual respect helps rebuild fences. Plus there was never any cheap shot politics between the two. Whyte knows who threw knives at his back.

Though mainly associated with the John Size stable, the buffet table of rides offered Joao Moreira’s way is, of course, large and varied. What he chooses to ride- and who for with possibly the future in mind- is something else.

As he’s often mentioned, Douglas Whyte knows the lay of the land when it comes to racing in Hong Kong.

By doing all the track work, Whyte also knows when his runners are ready and if his runners are given the rides expected on race day according to the high standards the legendary South African horseman has set for himself. For a world class rider like Joao Moreira, it makes his job easier.

Douglas Whyte is a tough task master- even on himself. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and might forgive, but very rarely forgets. In his new role these days, he wants his business to succeed with no margin for error.

This is why his Red Army team includes former jockey and the well-connected Vincent Sit as Assistant Trainer. It’s why he continues to ride track work. It’s why he opened his own Instagram account, not for self promotion, but to showcase his stable.

It’s also why he stopped using Alfred Chan for a while. The apprentice hadn’t ridden according to instructions. When given a chance a few Sundays ago to get back into Whyte’s good books by taking over rides meant to have gone to another apprentice- the injured Jack Wong- Chan grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He rode two winners for the trainer, and gave the winners good rides.

After that first winner, and while walking with Whyte to weigh in, it certainly looked as if the apprentice was asking the sorcerer for some sign of approval. Douglas Whyte has seldom been generous with his compliments. If done what’s expected and the results are good, there’s no need to say anything. It’s something understood.

Having ridden against each other, Joao Moreira and Douglas Whyte know what each can bring to the table.

With already 33 winners to his name in his sophomore year as a trainer, Douglas Whyte is back being the Durban Demon. The man thrives on competition. Sometimes he reminds me of that scene in “Apocalypse Now” where the character played by Robert Duvall, takes in the air around him and declares, “I LOVE the smell of napalm in the morning!”

This is not to say that Douglas Whyte is unhinged. Just that there’s method in his madness and how he’s crazy like a fox. He always has been. It’s what made him stay at the top of the tree as a jockey for thirteen consecutive years.

Still in his forties, his future as a trainer is so bright, one needs to wear shades.

Next season, there’ll be no John “Aethero” Moore. Mandatory retirement age or being “forced” to retire, will apparently see the champion trainer set up a boutique stable in Sydney with brother Gary. This story has had a good run.

John Size, with whom Douglas Whyte forged a remarkably successful partnership that benefited both until an acrimonious split, is around 4-5 years from retirement age.

By then in his early fifties, Douglas Whyte should be in control of a very powerful stable, one with Group 1 winners, yes, but also good gallopers with rating points in hand and in every other class. There’ll be others waiting in the wings.

A few days ago, it was announced that Hong Kong’s newest apprentice rider- the 10-pound claiming Jerry Chau- will be indentured to Douglas Whyte. Chau, who will go through a major baptism of fire, couldn’t have a better mentor in his corner.

How the former champion Hong Kong jockey looks at everything that’s already part of his burgeoning portfolio and how he chooses to roll out his business plan is something well worth following.

As mentioned, with great power comes great responsibility. Spider-Man’s Red Army and the web it weaves should be the one well worth following.., and backing.

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