The inexorable rise of Douglas Whyte among Hong Kong’s training ranks encompassed yet another milestone at Sha Tin this afternoon (Sunday, 20 February) as jockey Blake Shinn and Russian Emperor led home a one-two finish for the handler in the HK$12 million G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m).
Just weeks after savouring G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) glory with Stronger – his first win at the top-level as a trainer – Whyte took it up a notch this afternoon, not least thanks to an accomplished ground-saving steer from Shinn.
“It’s very satisfying, this horse (Russian Emperor) deserves it more than anything but more so the owners. They have been so patient and they’re very good friends of mine and they deserve it – they really do.
“The horse has just bounced back from the International Races and he reproduced that in the mile (G1 Stewards’ Cup, 1600m) and he’s come out today and done what I expected him to do. The rain has helped but, in saying that, he still had to win and he’s just done that,” Whyte said.
Savvy Nine filled second for Whyte – relishing the deteriorating ground and relentless rain under Matthew Chadwick, while Golden Sixty held third under Vincent Ho with Tourbillon Diamond finishing in fourth spot.
“The rain enhanced my feelings, absolutely, but I think the trial and his turf gallop last Tuesday (15 February) when I galloped him – I called Blake over and I said ‘You’re in business.’
“That trial and the turf gallop put me into very high confidence with this horse. When the rain came, it went to another level but when you’re up against a champion horse like Golden Sixty, you don’t want to be up against him any day of the year let alone in the Gold Cup,” Whyte said.
Hong Kong’s all-time leader as a jockey with 1,813 wins, Whyte has enjoyed a seemingly swift rise to success as a handler – capped now by two top-level wins in under a month.
“There’s been a lot of people who have been trying to move the horse, a lot of people who have had the boot in for me and karma is a funny thing but what I will say is he’s been given his time. I think everybody realises that these European horses, once they have a full season or a full season and a half, they find their straps,” Whyte explained.
Regally bred, Russian Emperor is out of Australian mare Atlantic Jewel, while his sire is none other than Coolmore’s imperious stallion – Galileo.
Whyte said: “He’s (Golden Sixty) a beautifully balanced horse with a lovely, fluid action so he might not have got through this ground – I’ve ridden here for 22-23 years as a jockey and when this light rain is about it’s when you notice the true difference in the track.
“When there’s that heavy rain, it runs right through the track and drains. This light rain makes a difference and Russian Emperor was there to lap it up.”
The time of the race was 2m 04.11s on yielding ground.
“He was always going to be a good horse but he was always ‘jarry’ and always feeling the tracks, even after a gallop he would feel the tracks and only now he’s acclimatised and the more time you seem to give him, the better he gets.
“He himself has adapted. I haven’t changed and even though I’ve had pressure, I haven’t put the pressure onto him. He’s now given me that pressure back,” Whyte said.
Brilliant Shinn delivers aboard Emperor
A cool, calm and collected Blake Shinn delivered arguably one of the performances of the season aboard Russian Emperor – confidently saving ground aboard the five-year-old before steering him to his first win in Hong Kong.
“I really believed that this was our opportunity, all the stars aligned today with the rain and everything just went to plan,” Shinn said.
Stepping away cleanly from gate nine, Shinn angled Russian Emperor to the rear of the field – settling on the fence, side-by-side with Golden Sixty.
And upon turning for home, the Melbourne Cup-winning rider peeled his mount out before kicking clear to a comfortable four and a quarter length success.
Speaking of pre-race discussions, Douglas Whyte revealed: “I had a few different ideas, few different views. In the parade ring, he (Blake Shinn) said to me ‘Do you mind if I ride the rail?’ And I said ‘You did that last time, you cut the corner and went in. Why would you do anything different? If you’ve got the horse underneath you, don’t come out?
“It was the winning move. When you’re riding with this kind of confidence in these kind of races, that’s what you want. The ride made the difference.”
The win was Shinn’s second at the top-level this season after Sky Field prevailed in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) last December at Sha Tin.
“Look, he’s a really talented horse and he’s been running really well. Full credit to Douglas, he’s figured out how to prep him for the big days and the elite level and that’s what great trainers do – they know how to peak them on the big days and Douglas has done that again today,” Shinn said.
Shinn, 34, now boasts 55 wins in Hong Kong – including 16 this term.
“It’s just really satisfying to get the result on the horse and I really thank Douglas for keeping me on him because four starts ago now, we were luckless, running fifth and I rang Douglas after the race and asked him to keep me on the horse and he did and big thanks to the owner for sticking by me and this is just reward for everyone involved today,” Shinn said.
Golden Sixty defeated again
Persistent rain and a deteriorating surface were the catalysts for Golden Sixty’s downfall this afternoon at Sha Tin – according to jockey Vincent Ho following the running of the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.
“The conditions, for sure, played a part and the others just saved up all the ground,” Ho said.
Settling in his customary position at the tail of the field, Golden Sixty peeled wide on the turn as he has always done, but failed to make any inroads on the winner.
“I had to go past one or two because (Zac) Purton’s horse was dropping back and I had no choice but to come out and the winner just made up ground on the inside,” Ho said.
Valiant in defeat, Golden Sixty – an Australian-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro had never faced any ground worse than a good surface before today.
“He still ran well, it was still a good effort,” Ho said.
Hong Kong racing continues this Wednesday (23 February) at Happy Valley.
Hong Kong Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Russian Emperor wins the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) under Blake Shinn. (HKJC Photo)