Legendary jockey-turned-trainer Douglas Whyte feels no extra pressure with his high-priced import General’s Delight ahead of his Hong Kong debut on Sunday.
The four-year-old Australian import was sold for more than A$2 million (HK$10.8m) after just three starts Down Under but that does not bother Whyte, who has a long history of riding some of Hong Kong’s most expensive horses.
The four-year-old will debut carrying the top weight of 133 pounds in the Class Three Canmake Tokyo Handicap (1,200m) after two eye-catching barrier trials.
“It is the same kind of pressure as when I was a jockey, you get the Akeed Mofeed’s and those sort of horses that have got a price tag on them,” Whyte said.
“Once you get on the horse or get them down to the start, the horse doesn’t know what he cost and I am trying to train each individual the same way.”
With a rating of 80, Whyte had the option to debut General’s Delight in Class Two, where he would have carried the bottom weight, but he has elected for what he believes will be an easier initiation to Hong Kong racing at the top of Class Three.
The formerly named Millard Reaction, trained by Toby Edmonds in Queensland, Australia, won over 1,100m and 1,350m and ran an unlucky second over 1,400m.
“I think he is a big enough horse physically to carry the weight. I just think the speed and tempo in a Class Two might have left him a little bit vulnerable first-up,” Whyte said.
“I would like him to have an experience where he could possibly get a bit comfortable in the race and have his opportunity to get a breather somewhere in the run.
“I think in a Class Two he could be exposed to the tempo and well-rounded, well-educated horses while he is going in a little bit rusty.”
While it is traditionally difficult for private purchases [previously raced horses] to win on debut in Hong Kong, Whyte believes his can buck the trend.
Last season 177 private purchases stepped out in Hong Kong, with only six going on to win. Historically, they win on debut less than four per cent of the time.
“He is as forward as you would expect one of your [private purchases] to be going into the first run,” Whyte said.
“He has had two lovely, educational trials, he has shown to everyone that he is more than capable. He has pleased me, especially in his second run when he hit the line the way you’d expect a nice horse to hit the line.
“It is big ask [winning on debut], the whole nature of racing in Hong Kong – the tempo, the pressure of the race itself is going to be a big experience for him but I think I have given him a good enough foundation and programme going into the race to be competitive as he can possibly be.”
Whyte takes a number of winning chances to Sha Tin on Sunday with his six-strong team of gallopers.
His very first winner Adonis returns in the Class Five L’Oreal Paris Handicap (1,200m) while Victory Power is on the cusp of breaking through for his first win in 19 starts in the Class Four Kate Tokyo Handicap (1,000m).