Race marvel's career reaches finish line

Top News | Jane Cheung 11 Feb 2019

Hong Kong's 13-time champion jockey Douglas Whyte has raced for the last time.

He retired from the saddle to prepare as a trainer after three decades of a riding career in which he earned 13 consecutive championships and more than 1,800 wins.

The 47-year-old jockey will learn to be a trainer in England from veterans that include Michael Stoute, William Haggas, Aidan O'Brien and David Hayes in the coming months.

He is expected to return to the Hong Kong Jockey Club as a full-time trainer by the start of the next racing season in September.

The club yesterday hosted a farewell ceremony for the racing legend at Shatin Racecourse.

Whyte received a silver plate from chairman Anthony Chow Wing-kin amid cheering from his family, fellow jockeys and racing fans.

Chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges gifted Whyte with a framed photo of him cheering for his 13th championship in 2013.

Whyte thanked the club, his competitors and fans for supporting him.

"I had rivals and competitions with the other jockeys but that is a good thing that pushed us forward in performance," he said.

Whyte did not win yesterday but earned two runner-up, a second runner-up and two fourth-place finishes among the seven races he took part in.

After the last race, he blew kisses and waved to spectators. He also threw towels and shirts to fans and signed autographs.

Some fans had prepared paintings and framed photos as gifts which Whyte happily received and had pictures taken holding them.

"I feel blessed and there's nothing I regret. I don't feel like I should have or could have done any other things," he said.

"I'll definitely try to eat more and a larger variety of food because I no longer have to control my weight."

Whyte will leave for England on February 20.

A fan, surnamed Chan, drew a painting for Whyte. "He'll forever be a legend in my mind," Chan said. "I wish him eternal success as a trainer as well."

Speaking in a video played in the ceremony, former champion jockey Zac Purton praised Whyte as the most determined rider he has ever met. "He is the one jockey that I admire the most," Purton said.

Before the ceremony, Purton was seen shining Whyte's shoes.

This is the club's second time in recent decades to issue a trainer's license to a current jockey. The first time was the licensing of champion jockey Tony Cruz in 1996.

Whyte joined the jockey club in the 1996-97 season after graduating from the South African Jockey Academy in 1996.

He was champion jockey in Hong Kong from 2000 to 2013.

He is the only jockey in history to reach 1,000 wins in Hong Kong and his tally of 114 wins in 2005-06 was a record for almost a decade until Joao Moreira surpassed it in 2014-15.

Whyte is the city's record holder for overall career wins - 1,813 - and won the most career prize money of over HK$1.58 billion.

Born in Durban, South Africa, Whyte was nicknamed "the Durban Demon" by racing fans.

He first sat on a horse when he was two and developed his skills riding in the countryside with his late father, who was also a jockey.

Before he settled in Hong Kong as a full-time jockey, he rode weekends in Singapore and Malaysia for one year.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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