Douglas Whyte is set for an AP McCoy-style goodbye at Sha Tin on Sunday and we pick out the main points of interest from the card.
Echoes of AP as Whyte prepares to bow out
Think back to the reaction when Sir Anthony McCoy retired and you will have a fair idea of what Douglas Whyte's final day in the saddle means to Hong Kong racing.
Both men dominated their respective championships for well over a decade thanks to a combination of skill, strength and ferocious desire, elevating their respective sports to a higher plane by setting records that may never be broken.
Whyte isn’t going out as champion but his impact has been huge - with 13 consecutive titles and over 1800 winners - and his relentless hunger can be traced back to a childhood choice he faced when a chance to join the famous South African apprentice academy presented itself.
“My mother tried to make it tough for me, he explains. “She said, 'if you stay I’ll buy you another pony but if you go I’m selling the other two that you’ve got.’
“That was at 12 years old, so that’s how much I wanted to be a jockey. I had to give up my ponies and leave home and do a five-year apprenticeship. I wasn’t going to let it fail after that decision!”
Storm brewing as former champ seeks winning farewell
The railbirds who hover around Sha Tin’s paddock are a notoriously tough audience but they will gather in force after Sunday’s fourth race (due off at 6.30 GMT for Whyte’s formal farewell ceremony).
Signing off with a winner won’t be easy but don’t be surprised if the consistent Storm Signal goes very close for the Durban Demon in the 8.10.
This gelding comes up against two familiar British imports, namely King Of Hearts and Happy Family, who both showed smart form for William Haggas when known as Society Power and Headway.
Raging Blitzkrieg looks a worthy favourite for those who prefer more recent solid HK form and a reproduction of his fine second to the unbeaten Regency Legend over this course and distance two weeks ago will make him tough to beat.
However, Storm Signal has been very consistent in useful sprints this season. He looks one of Whyte’s stronger chances from seven rides on his last day and has to be high on the list for anyone playing the place and Quinella markets.
King the danger as Stars bids to shine again
Whyte partners former John Gosden galloper Seven Heavens for Caspar Fownes in the 8.40 and will need to be at his most persuasive as this Frankel gelding is looking increasingly tough to catch right due to his headstrong nature.
I Am Power hasn’t taken long to make a mark in HK after leaving Michael O’Callaghan’s Irish base last year, but Special Stars and Speedy King look the pair to focus on.
Logic suggests that Special Stars will be a strong favourite for John Size and Joao Moreira given that he’s lightly raced and caught the eye rattling off a very nifty middle split when scoring at Happy Valley last month.
He’s probably still ahead of the game despite a 7lb rise but Speedy King has been in fine form since returning to the minimum trip and has plenty to recommend him at longer odds from what looks a handy draw in stall 12.
Right Choice looks the right choice for in-form de Sousa
The barrier gods haven’t smiled on Whyte for the final ride of his illustrious career as Uncle Steve – known as Court of Justice when winning with ease at Beverley for David Simcock last summer – has drawn14 of 14 for the finale at 9.50.
Invincible Missile and Gallant Return have more to recommend them at the bottom of the weights, but Right Choice looks one of the most interesting horses on the entire card as he bids to make it three wins from his first four starts.
Frankie Lor’s gelding looked very much a horse to follow over 1400m here on his latest start, taking a little while to find full stride in blinkers for the first time then coming home powerfully under Silvestre de Sousa to beat two recent winners and a subsequent scorer narrowly yet decisively.
The visual impression created was backed up by a striking final 400m split of 22.03s and, with an inside draw and the step up to a mile looking a major plus, Right Choice looks to have a huge amount in his favour.
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