by Hans Ebert

He never leaves anything to chance. Never has. It’s just the way he is. And if he pulls the wrong rein on anything to do with his professional life, it becomes a challenge that he needs to work on until things are corrected.

He doesn’t agonise over things as there’s that incredible self belief in himself that nothing is impossible. Or as Yoda might say, Impossible is nothing.

Many of us saw this gritty determination when Douglas Whyte ruled the tracks in Happy Valley and Shatin. He always had a plan and timetable ticking in his head much like his ability to ride a race to the sectionals clicking over in his head.

This is what won him thirteen successive jockey championships. And everything he learned back then is being used now in his second season as a trainer.

It’s also about timing. Like his decision to listen to the late Robin Parke, the very knowledgeable racing editor of the SCMP, and try his luck riding in Hong Kong.

It’s been about getting on the right horses at the right time, sometimes using persuasive elbow grease.

It’s about when he was granted his license to train in this city.

As expected, Douglas Whyte is doing extremely well in his second career. Knowing something about the man from the many hours spent with him over the years, he’s no doubt restless, because he knows he has bigger fish to fry.

He will never be satisfied until he wins his first Trainers championship in Hong Kong. Watching others win it- all of whom he rode for when a jockey- won’t be sitting well with him.

I’m only guessing, but I know I know that I’m right.

I’m also guessing that he’s out there winning races with the stable he has and how he knows he needs Group 1 horsepower to compete with especially John Size and Caspar Fownes.

Right now, with his trusty apprentice Jerry Chau by his side, Dougie is fine-tuning and mixing things up to find that perfect recipe. It’s his MacArthur Park.

He uses the top jockeys sparingly. If he had his way, he probably wouldn’t use them at all. After all, it’s his show. It’s not unlike when he was Hong Kong’s king of the turf.

There are then those jockeys he has never used, and others he’s used and perhaps won’t use again.

When one has been to the top of the mountain like Douglas Whyte has and seen how everything works- everything to do with winning races, winning titles, winning over owners and being your own person- it comes down to creating one’s own business plan.

Does he want owners like the Sius, Tiens and the SaSa’s with their “Beauty” horses in his stable? Could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s something he spends sleepless nights thinking about.

My guess is that he’s looking for a new group of owners with whom he can work using a clean slate and bring some new silks to colour Hong Kong racing.

When old ways are handed down from generation to generation, the baton suffers from wear and tear and gets very old very fast.

Right now, and has been written here before, there’s been a changing of the guard- in all aspects of life including what is horse racing.

This was easy to see recently at Royal Ascot. This meeting belonged to 25 year old Oisin Murphy. Stradivarius ran fourth. Was Sheikh Mohammed even there?

In Australia, this changing of the guard has seen Jamie Kah create her own revered space in the riding ranks whereas new business models are being formed by a new generation of trainers. Chris Waller and his army can’t keep winning everything.

In Hong Kong- today’s Hong Kong where its future lies over the border- new players, especially when it comes to owners, will make their presence felt.

Many will have huge spending power, which is not to say that they’re going to be naive and easily led. If they’re going to enjoy their racing, they’ll be looking at those trainers and jockeys with whom they can communicate.

These business people won’t care how it was done before. It’s going to be all about a return on their investment and achieved on their own terms

Douglas Whyte has been here long enough to read the tea leaves. Hong Kong is home to him and his family.

Douglas knows stayers from sprinters and what must be done to have his ducks in a row with the future in mind.

He’s still only in his late forties. By the time he’s, let’s say, 55, some of the current leading Trainers will be five years older. A couple would have retired. The jockey ranks will look very different. So will the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Horse racing will definitely continue, but most likely with certain changes to its business model to accommodate the wants and needs of a new generation of customers and owners brand new to the sport and pastime.

This leads to what’s going to be key: the ambitious and global game changer that is the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA) project, a megalapolis consisting of nine cities within China and two special administrative regions- Hong Kong and Macau.

Hong Kong can only benefit from being part of this economic and cultural triumvirate. This city that’s always been on borrowed time can no longer continue to be the independent lone wolf it once was.

To see how and where horse racing fits into all this, one only has to look at the state of the art training facilities in Conghua.

Douglas Whyte saw Conghua taking shape from the ground up. Again, it had to do with timing. His expert advice and that of someone like former champion Irish Jockey Michael Kinane were invaluable. It helped create a vision for the future for horse racing.

This future is happening now and let’s not think that the GBA will not have its own Silicon Valley, Las Vegas- and much more.

How much more? How long is a ball of string?

Right now, some of us are playing a waiting game and doing the best we can with the toys we’ve been given in the new abnormal.

Douglas Whyte is being the consummate professional that he’s always been while also building his own brand. The pink and pin striped jackets he wears help enhance it.

He watches, takes it all in and doesn’t make a song and dance about things. It’s not time for that. Not yet. There’s a time and place for everything.

Two years into being a horse trainer, he knows all about patience being a virtue.

Life isn’t a race. It’s a journey. It’s knowing what cards one is holding and when to press that “Go” button.

Douglas Whyte knows all about races and when to make the right moves.

He knows that is everything…and timing leads to new opportunities.

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