Stronger delivers Douglas Whyte’s first G1 as trainer with Centenary Sprint Cup triumph
Revered as the most successful rider in Hong Kong racing history with 13 jockeys’ championships and a record 1,813 wins, Douglas Whyte forged new territory on Sunday (23 January) when Stronger provided the South African with his first major victory as a trainer with success in the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m).
The diminutive chestnut upstaged G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) champion Sky Field by a head under Vincent Ho after a protracted battle over the final 400 metres, with another G1 winner Hot King Prawn a further half length away in third place.
Whyte’s satisfaction was manifold, joining the select ranks of trainers to have succeeded at G1 level in Hong Kong, while the success also vindicated his faith in a horse he has repeatedly praised for his honesty despite his relative size.
“I’ve had numerous amount (of G1) wins as a jockey, so to get the first one on the board as a trainer is great. I’ve been stiff a few times, but it’s a good feeling,” said Whyte, who accumulated more than 20 major victories as a jockey.
“Stronger came out of that International run significantly injured. He was lucky to get away with the (leg) injuries that he had, but he pulled through and we sent him up to Conghua for a while and brought him back and trialled him and got his confidence back.
“Since that trial, he hasn’t put a foot wrong.
“He’s been a bit unlucky, he’s been a bridesmaid a few times, he’s had a few excuses but today everything went his way and he can do something like that when he gets the run he got today.
“His trial last week he indicated he would arrive in great shape but, I tell you, today was the longest 400 metres of my life so far. The winning move was putting him to sleep and coming out wide and the second horse (Sky Field) had to come around us and sort of push us along.
“Look, he was vulnerable but he dug deep and that’s all that matters. It was a very long 400 metres.”
Stronger finished fifth in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint on 12 December, suffering severe interference on the home turn.
Whyte singled out Ho for praise after he had settled Stronger seventh of the eight runners before allowing the Not A Single Doubt entire to fan to the middle of the track to build momentum from the corner.
“Vincent gets his head in the right place in these big races. He’s riding to perfection and he should be. He’s come through the grades fantastically.
“I’ve just got to say thankyou to the owner for sticking with me and believing in the horse because he was always going to do something like this. To eventually get that Group 1, it’s a very significant, great feeling.”
Ho said: “Stronger, if it’s on his day, he’s always there and the pace was on today. It just worked out beautifully for us. He’s such a good fighter and when horses come close to him, he wants to fight more.”
Frankie Lor, trainer of Master Eight, said the previously unbeaten gelding was a victim of circumstances after being caught wide, while Hot King Prawn could not get clear running at a critical stage.
Joao Moreira extended his lead in the jockeys’ championship to 15 over Zac Purton after posting a quartet.
The Brazilian underlined the depth of talent at Tony Cruz’s disposal when The Golden Scenery surged to victory in the Class 2 Able Friend Handicap (1400m), earning a High Achievement Bonus of HK$1 million in the process.
Known as Dominant King when trained in Australia by Steven O’Dea and Matthew Hoysted, The Golden Scenery claimed the bonus for winning at Class 2 level when rated at 80 or above and before turning five.
Moreira was again to the fore in tandem with Frankie Lor when Beauty Live, a son of Shamus Award, swept to victory in the Class 4 Helene Paragon Handicap (1400m). Lor posted his 40th win of the season when Tavistock gelding Ready To Win prevailed in the Class 3 Aerovelocity Handicap (1200m) for Derek Leung.
Determined to make the most of opportunities before starting a six-meeting suspension next month, Moreira drove John Size’s Pins Prince along the fence to snare the Class 4 Peniaphobia Handicap (1200m) before guiding Superbella to victory in the Class 3 Seasons Bloom Handicap (2000m) for Frankie Lor, who had a treble on the day.
Addressing his ride on Zone D at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (19 January), Moreira said: “It’s a mistake I have done and there is a price to pay and I will pay with my head down and nothing I could say but just (to) apologise to all those people involved because it is a mistake – a genuine mistake.
“Fortunately, that didn’t get into my mind and apparently I’m still riding well.”
Ruan Maia dictated from the outset aboard Kowloon East Star in the opening race of the programme – the Class 4 D B Pin Handicap (1000m) – providing Jimmy Ting with his 20th victory of the term.
Ricky Yiu’s Darci Joy posted his third win from his past five starts when he arrived with perfect timing for Matthew Chadwick in the Class 4 Giant Treasure Handicap (1800m).
Navas Two continued his ascendant progress with a third successive win for Richard Gibson as Maia completed a double by winning the Class 3 Beat The Clock Handicap (1400m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday (26 January).