Douglas Whyte has high hopes for Flaming Rabbit

Leo Schlink

13/07/2023 12:02

Flaming Rabbit powers to last-start victory.
Flaming Rabbit powers to last-start victory.

Douglas Whyte hopes the frustrations stemming from Flaming Rabbit’s delayed first Hong Kong preparation will ultimately prove to be a blessing when the talented import contests the Class 1 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy Handicap (1600m) at the 2022/23 season finale at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 July).

A three-time European winner, Flaming Rabbit did not land in Hong Kong until December and made a late start to his campaign, effectively dashing Whyte’s hopes of contesting the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) with the Time Test colt.

But Whyte, who has 37 wins for the season, is confident Flaming Rabbit - who eventually debuted in April - can thrive into the future.

“He started his preparation late, so he’s still got fresh legs. Had he been up and running early in the season, I probably wouldn’t be running him on Sunday, but he’s only just got going - he’s had only a handful of runs and he’s at a great stage of his preparation and career and so there’s no point in stopping him yet,” Whyte said.

“The race presented itself, he’s coming in with a nice galloping weight, so we’re going to the race.”

To be ridden again by Lyle Hewitson, Flaming Rabbit rises to Class 1 after his impressive last-start Class 2 success.

Whyte’s faith in the four-year-old is such that he believes the 93-rater will rise to beyond 100 in the handicaps.

“He’ll be triple figures for sure. He’s on the way to that. He’s adapted to the place and it’s a big question mark whether I geld him for don’t geld him. I’ll see and deal with that after this next race,” Whyte said.

Lyle Hewitson has 50 wins for the season.
Lyle Hewitson has 50 wins for the season.

Whyte and Hewitson have combined for 16 wins this season and the pair will unite again with talented Dragon’s Luck in the Class 3 Pingwu Spark Handicap (1200m).

“Dragon Luck has done a great job. His last run was very good, coming off a spell and a soft preparation and he’s a lot fitter this run in,” Whyte said.

“However, he does face stiff opposition carrying 134 pounds and there’s a low-weighted horse of Danny Shum’s (Packing Bole) who’s going to carry a feather weight (119lb) and he looks like a jump and lead horse and he’ll (Dragon’s Luck) will have his work cut out.

“But on a health and form perspective, I couldn’t be happier.”

With Sunday’s season finale marking the formal celebration of the 2022/23 Hong Kong championships and awards, John Size will claim a record 12th trainers’ title, Zac Purton will collect a sixth jockeys’ crown and Vincent Ho will receive the Tony Cruz Award as the leading homegrown jockey for the fourth time.

Douglas Whyte has had another strong season.
Douglas Whyte has had another strong season.

For Whyte, the season has again delivered strong results with 37 wins and 99 minor placings from 525 runners. The South African’s achievements are headlined by the Russian Emperor’s heroics both domestically and abroad with victories in the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) and the QAT G1 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) in Qatar.

“If you’re reaching 40 wins, year in and year out, you’re during a good job. I’ve had a couple of seconds that haven’t gone my way but with Russian Emperor making headlines overseas and here with Group 1 wins, I couldn’t be happier with my season,” he said.

“If you’re hitting around 40 winners a season, you’re doing something right.”

Sunday’s (16 July) 11-race season finale kicks off with the Class 5 Mr Award Handicap (1200m) at 4pm.

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