Douglas Whyte was so dominant as a 13-time champion jockey in Hong Kong, they nicknamed him the ‘Durban Demon’. However, despite the South African’s numerous triumphs across the globe, he never rode a winner at Dubai World Cup night.
Come Saturday, his luck could change in his new avatar as a trainer.
Whyte has pinned his hopes on Russian Emperor, a six-year-old gelding that recently won the $2.5 million Amir Trophy in Doha last month. He lines up for the $6 million Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic, which is run over 2,410 metres.
Ridden by Italian jockey Alberto Sanna, the pair then travelled to Dubai and finished fifth in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday in Dubai.
“In Qatar, he ran way above what his form suggested. I was a little bit concerned with the track…it’s tight, short straight. But I wanted him to ride a good race and he got rolling at the right time and he got his momentum up. And from that race, he’s really lifted his game. I’m happy with his condition,” said the 51-year-old Whyte.
“I think in this sort of a race, ‘confidence’ could be the wrong word to use. I know my horse is healthy and his running on Super Saturday was fantastic. He’s going into the race in as best condition as I can possibly have him in. You’re lining up against some of the best horses in the world. A lot is going to boil down to barrier draws.
“However, if my horse runs competitively, and he can, he will do himself and Hong Kong proud, I’d be more than happy with that kind of performance. I’m not going out there with confidence to say that he would win. I’d be stupid to do that against this kind of a field. But my horse is healthy, he’s well, he’s happy and he will give a good account of himself.”
Whyte is enjoying his new innings as a trainer, and has a newfound respect for their role.
“There’s a big difference. I’ve got a lot of responsibilities now. You don’t realise when you’re a jockey how much input and effort it takes to get a horse over here in a healthy condition, let alone get it to run competitively. So, it’s been a challenge and a very interesting one,” said Whyte, who retired in February 2019.
“The thing about being a jockey is that the moment I would be put on a horse in the parade ring, I was in total control. I would have done my form, I would have done my speed maps and I would have analysed the race as best as I possibly could. And once the trainer legged me up, I was in total control and I was confident enough to know that I could handle whatever happened.
“From a trainer’s perspective, once I throw the jockey on, it’s all out of my hands. There’s nothing I can do. I can only watch the race and hope it unfolds the way that we’ve spoken about.
“So, it’s a lot more pressure. The races feel a lot longer. That’s probably been the most difficult thing for me to get used to in this transition.”