13-time champion jockey Douglas Whyte is looking forward to a new chapter in his career. Photo by HKJC.


Hong Kong great Douglas Whyte prepares for a new chapter


By David Morgan, HKJC.



Douglas Whyte has ridden Hong Kong champions including the brilliant Ambitious Dragon.
Douglas Whyte has ridden Hong Kong champions including the brilliant Ambitious Dragon.


It was a morning of rumours at Sha Tin. Intrigue abounded as to what the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Licensing Committee would announce. Between each batch of 10 barrier trials, talk among trainers, jockeys and the ladies and gentleman of Hong Kong’s racing media turned to why the Club had made known as late as the previous evening that a press conference would be held at 9.30 am? It must be something big, they concluded.

It was.

A cluster of lenses ambushed Douglas Whyte as he walked into the Double Haven suite at the Sha Tin Clubhouse. Gone was the riding gear he had been wearing just a short time earlier: Hong Kong’s 13-time champion jockey was suited and ready for business; a new business.

“The Licensing Committee of the Hong Kong Jockey Club has granted a trainer’s licence to Douglas Whyte for the 2019/2020 season,” Andrew Harding, the Club’s Executive Director of Racing, announced.

A firm ripple of applause welcomed the news.

Harding revealed that Whyte, 47, will hang up his race-riding boots after the Sha Tin fixture on Sunday, 10 February, in order to take up the Club’s offer to join the trainers’ roster full-time at this season’s end.

“That’s a special day,” Whyte said. “This was not a day chosen by me: the Club has asked me to extend to that day and it’s the most amazing thing because my dad passed away on the 10th of February, my daughter was born on the 10th of February and I’m closing a chapter and opening a new chapter in my life on the 10th of February, so it’s phenomenal that that particular day was chosen for me by the Club and I’m very grateful for that.”

Whyte said that the opportunity, presented to him at 6pm the previous evening, was too good to turn down; that it fulfilled a long-held ambition but also that it came at an unexpected time.

“When I got that call last night, I was very surprised,” he said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to train in Hong Kong and I was hoping that I’d be eventually afforded the opportunity to train here.

“I didn’t think it would happen this quickly in my career. I only put in an application recently – for the first time – and I did that in the hope that the Club would take it seriously that I was looking into that venture, and that I would one day be prepared to give up riding. I hadn’t purposed on getting it as quickly as this – but it’s not a hard decision to make.

“I believe I’m ready for it,” he continued. “It’s a challenge that I’m very keen to get hold of, and I’m an achiever so any challenge that’s thrown my way I’ll find a way to deal with it”


The right time


Whyte celebrates after London News’ QEII Cup victory.
Whyte celebrates after London News’ QEII Cup victory.


Whyte dominated the Hong Kong scene for more than a decade. He first arrived in Hong Kong in September 1996 and snared a first Sha Tin Group 1 the following spring when he rode the South African star London News to victory in the QEII Cup; he notched the first of 13 consecutive titles in 2001.

The man who came to be known as ‘The Durban Demon” has since won the Hong Kong Derby three times. He has won the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, Hong Kong Mile and Hong Kong Vase; the LONGINES IJC three times; Japan’s World Super Jockeys Series; he is Hong Kong’s all-time leading rider with 1,813 wins, as well as the record stakes earner with his mounts having collected HK$1.585 billion. The star gallopers he has ridden include Ambitious Dragon, Oriental Express, Akeed Mofeed, Indigenous and Glorious Days.

His dominance waned in recent seasons but this term has been bright with 22 wins. Whyte admitted that he will miss race-riding but stressed that he is ready for this “new chapter” despite the surprise timing.

“I don’t think it’s too late and I don’t think it’s too early: It’s the right time,” he said.

I always said I’d decide myself when it was time to stop – I still believe I’m sharp, I’m fit, I still have what it takes but when you weigh up what I can now achieve, and what I’m looking forward to, it’s made my decision a lot easier for me.

“I’ll  still be able to do what I love most and that’s get up and be around horses – fortunately I’m still fit enough to be able to get on them. I’ll miss the competitive side, going down to the gates and analysing each and every other jockey and getting that focus on race day and getting prepared.

“That competitive edge and that winning feeling will be missed greatly. But I think I’ve got a lot more competition to focus on and a lot more on my mind that’s going to keep me busy.”


Trainer training


The Sha Tin crowd cheers Whyte after winning the Hong Kong Cup atop Akeed Mofeed.
The Sha Tin crowd cheers Whyte after winning the Hong Kong Cup atop Akeed Mofeed.


Before unleashing his first runners next season, Whyte plans to depart Hong Kong to gain experience with some of the world’s leading trainers.

“There are trainers I would love to go and spend time with but I haven’t contacted anyone as this only came about last night,” he said. “I could mention who I would like to go to but it would be unfair without having contacted anyone, but there’s a shortlist and I’m very hopeful that I will be working very closely with some top trainers.”

And he acknowledged that his experiences up to this point have done much to prepare him for what lies ahead.

“I’ve worked with some of the best trainers in the world here in Hong Kong; I’ve worked in South Africa, Japan, Singapore, the UK and been fortunate enough to have been associated with some of the best trainers. I’ve ridden for them, I’ve watched how they manage their yards and run their teams,” he said.

“It’s imperative that you have a team that wants to work for you and that you manage correctly and that you can call a team. A lot of trainers have afforded me that opportunity of learning that, and I hope to take that forward. It’s been a very good grounding and I’ve learnt a lot from them.”

One of those to have helped expand Whyte’s knowledge base recently is Moore, with whom he has enjoyed a warm working arrangement.

“I have to thank John and his staff, they’ve taught me a lot and I’ve seen and learnt a lot,” he said. “All the trainers here have taught me a lot but I’ve built up a lovely relationship with him, with his staff, and he’s been very open and kind to afford me the opportunity of learning a lot from him, especially the last year.”

Harding talked of Whyte’s incredible contribution to Hong Kong racing at a time when it was evolving rapidly into a world class concern, describing him as an “extraordinary talent” and complimenting his famed “skills as a horseman”. These, he said, “provide him with an inherent natural advantage in transitioning from jockey to trainer.”

Tony Cruz is the only other jockey in Hong Kong’s recent history to make the move directly from race-riding into training and he has so far claimed two Champion Trainer titles and numerous Group 1 races. Whyte is looking forward to following that lead.

“It’s a new career, a new chapter in my life and it’s something I’m looking forward to,” he said.