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Harry Bentley to ride Russian Emperor, Douglas Whyte remembers retired Stronger

Douglas Whyte has confirmed Russian Emperor will have a new jockey for Sunday’s Group One Stewards’ Cup (1,600m), with Harry Bentley to become the third person to partner the six-year-old this season.

After Lyle Hewitson was in the saddle for Russian Emperor’s first-up start, Blake Shinn – the jockey who partnered the galloper to Gold Cup and Champions & Chater Cup success last season – jetted in to take the ride in the Jockey Club Cup and Hong Kong Cup.

Bentley’s first ride aboard two-time Group One winner Russian Emperor will come in one of Hong Kong’s most anticipated races in recent memory, with the city’s three highest-rated gallopers – Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior and California Spangle – set to duke it out in the Stewards’ Cup.

Whyte will very much have his work cut out as he bids to add more Group One silverware to his mantelpiece, and as of last Friday, he has got one fewer elite-level victor in his stable following the retirement of Stronger.

The South African’s first Group One winner as a trainer after a string of big-race wins as a jockey, Stronger had to be retired after bleeding for a second time in a trial as he built towards his defence of the Centenary Sprint Cup on February 5.

“Unfortunately, there were no trials on Tuesday with the races on, so he trialled on Friday leading up to the Centenary Sprint. It happens this time of year with the temperature, and it’s very disappointing,” Whyte said.

“I’ve got fond memories of not only that Group One win but also the horse in general. He’s been a stand-out in the stable, he’s never put a foot wrong, and even being a colt, he’s just the most beautiful horse to work with. He’s going to be sadly missed.”

Meanwhile, Whyte heads to Tuesday’s Chinese New Year race day armed with eight runners,

and he’s looking forward to finally seeing what Blue Marlin can do at the races after the four-year-old has become a labour of love since arriving in Hong Kong in July.

“He’s been a handful. He’s very fractious. He’s smashed himself up in the gates, and it’s been a long, slow process to get him back. He’s a nice horse. Whatever he does on Tuesday, he’ll improve from,” Whyte said.

A son of Golden Slipper winner Capitalist, Blue Marlin has had three trials – to go with endless hours of barrier training – in the lead up to the Class Four Kung Hei Handicap (1,200m), winning the most recent of those by half a length after travelling on the speed.

Also among Whyte’s arsenal are Mr Majestic, Super Hornet, Choicerus, last-start winner Boys Party, Boom Alliance, Turin Mascot and Prince Alex.

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