By Murray Bell
Jockey Douglas Whyte hit his anticipated 1,000 win milestone at whirlwind pace at Sha Tin yesterday, racking up a superb four-time and etching his name even more deeply into the annals of Hong Kong racing history.
Whyte, 36, is having a vintage season despite a rash of six suspensions, which only barely slowed his momentum. Once racing closed last night, the Durban Demon had racked up 87 wins for the season from 435 rides at a strike rate of precisely 20%. And he is now the first jockey ever to ride 1,000 winners in Hong Kong.
After 2-1 favorite Bejeweled comfortably won the ninth event, the Li Cup, for trainer Paul O’Sullivan, Whyte was in celebration mode. He bore the satisfied smile of a man who set a challenging goal and then relentlessly ran it down.
“This has been a goal of mine for quite some time and while I feel very elated to have achieved the 1,000 wins, and to have done so with my wife and children here, it probably hasn’t sunk in yet,” Whyte said.
“It’s been an incredible journey, to think I came here for three months originally and here we are, 11 years later. Wouldn’t have in my wildest dreams have believed I could win 1,000 races.
“It has been a hell of a lot of hard work but it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable anywhere else in the world than here. You put in the work elsewhere and you get the rewards, but the rewards here are so much more satisfying than anywhere else in the world.”
The Jockey Club made a special framed presentation to Whyte to make the occasion, with 10 specially commissioned gold coins.
Jockey Club chief executive Winfriend Engelbrecht-Bresges described Whyte as “the perfect athlete who consistently strives for sheer excellence.”
“He is non-stop, always striving to be better, and even in this pressure cooker environment, it never gets to him. He is dominating, and it’s not by luck, but by ability and determination --- you just have to admire his passion.”
Whyte offered a handful of words to describe his attitude toward the racing game: “Motivation, dedication, hard work and a passion for my job--I love horses,” he continued. “Even when I go away to my farm in Italy, I have horses there that I go down for three or four hours and ride every morning.
“It think that’s the key to it, I love what I do and I think that with any successful person in life, if you don’t love what you do, you’re that much further behind the person who does.”
And the next 1,000 winners?
“I don’t know, I’d be old and grey by then,” he laughed. “I’ll just continue to strive to be as successful, continue to be dominant for as long as possible. I’ve always said the day that I’m not as successful, or no longer as dominant is the day that Douglas Whyte will retire, from Hong Kong anyway.”
Whyte paid a personal tribute of thanks to champion trainer John Size, who has given the jockey a raft of winning rides over the past three seasons to have made the journey “so much more enjoyable.”
“I’ve always said that in life, you can count your real friends on one hand with a couple of fingers missing, but John Size makes that hand,” he continued. “Two others trainers, Wong Tang-ping and Alex Wong Yu-on who have given me great support over the years, are also great personal friends as well.”