With a new Hong Kong racing season around the corner and Zac Purton out to start chipping away, this time, at the record held by Douglas Whyte for the most winners ridden by a jockey in Hong Kong, it had me thinking of the Durban Demon.
Speaking to friends who know something about racing in Hong Kong, some of whom didn’t remember those years when the South African ruled Hong Kong racing with a very definite sense of style and determination that demanded respect, it shows, at least to me, just how much the racing product has changed along with the way the once vibrant international city is seen today.
Douglas and I spent many good times at the Blue Bar and restaurants like Jimmy’s Kitchen and Guru where we had quite a few conversations- surprisingly, nothing about racing, except perhaps for him explaining everything he had learned by spending time with the horse whisperer- Monty Roberts.
Those days we shared were good times at a very different time in the history of Hong Kong.
Despite whatever happened in Hong Kong racing, or what might happen next, Douglas Whyte will always be thought of as a champion.
With thirteen consecutive Championship Hong Kong Jockey titles to his name, it’s a record that will never ever be broken and with Douglas Whyte very probably being the most respected name in the city’s racing game.
Why? It’s in the way he has always handled himself, how, these days as a trainer, he does his own track work, the way he manages his stable, places his horses in races and the pride he always displays in being part of a city that’s been extremely good to him and his family.
With a brilliant curriculum vitae and knowing the lay of the land better then most along with being able to read the tea leaves and mood of the city, Douglas Whyte is someone who perhaps should be used by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to help endorse Hong Kong.
Instead of that bizarre piece of communication featuring an awkward looking Hugh Bowman, a Jockey almost fresh off the sampan, in a promotional video endorsing the cultural and heritage building known as Tai Kwun, anyone who knows something about marketing would have picked Douglas Whyte.
That he wasn’t, says many things though none of this is going to bother The Champion.
He’s seen it all, and heard it all.
He knows where he’s going, how he’s going to get there and who with.
His sudden split with Jerry Chau, the apprentice rider for his stable, his support, especially for Lyle Hewitson, and the horses for courses way he’s used a senior rider like Blake Shinn, shows someone whose mind is always working and thinking of how to move things forward that will benefit his owners.
Does he miss being the champion jockey of Hong Kong? Doubt it.
He reigned when Hong Kong was a very special city.
These days, he’s in charge of his own stable, he works with his owners and staff, gets to wear salmon pink jackets and dress up like Beetlejuice and still be a winner and champion.
He’s also got time on his side and how he uses this is going to be something interesting to follow- as would a book about his life.