Jenny - Clean

FOR champion trainer Caspar Fownes and nine times champion jockey Douglas Whyte the HK$16 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby of 2010 proved the dream come true, with both stars opening their accounts in the most prestigious race on the Hong Kong domestic racing calendar.

It was by only a head that Whyte, already a legend in Hong Kong racing, got the son of Danehill Dancer up to collar the Tony Cruz-trained Super Pistachio, but a head in racing is as big a margin as an inch in golf or a line call in any sport.

The difference was enough to throw both Fownes and owner Ranjan Tikam Mahtani into ecstasies. Whyte, ever the professional, was a little more restrained in his celebrations, but there was no doubt what filling this gap in his illustrious Hong Kong CV meant to the popular South African.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Fownes when restored to at least partial calm. “On paper this looked like the toughest Derby for years, as well as the most open.

"When the owner said to me months ago that we were going to win it with this horse, I just looked at him as though to ask ‘What are you on?’. But he was right, and on the day I knew I couldn’t have got my horse any better.”

Fownes remains undecided on a future programme for the Derby winner, on the grounds that “He’s been up all season and won five already. So we’ll give him a quiet time now. But he just keeps coming back, and we’ll see how he is in the course of the week”.

The grateful trainer, claiming unconvincingly that it would be “a quiet night tonight”, also paid tribute to his jockey who completed a near perfect day for himself with victory in the nightcap on Sapelli. “I’m very happy for Dougie too,” said Fownes. “He’s been champion for so long. He really deserves this.”

Whyte himself was typically unemotional in describing the story of the race: “They went quick early, then slowed it down at the 800m. So I had a decision to make. Then Shane (Dye on Fair Trade) went and I followed him. As a result I was three lengths closer than I might have been early in the straight, which made all the difference.

“It has been a long time between drinks,” he admitted on breaking his Derby drought. “But the wait has made me tougher and more determined to get the right horse. This time is was down to the last gallop (a barrier trial on 5 March).”

Owner Mahtani, more conventionally moved, exclaimed: “It’s every owner’s dream to win the Derby and I’ve been owning horses in Hong Kong for ten years.”

Only eighth with 400m to go, Super Satin came with a long run down the outside which just wore down the game Super Pistachio, who’d gone to the front at the 200m, with Brave Kid a length and a quarter away in third, and Beauty Flash – with Frankie Dettori on board – another half length away in fourth.

Before the Derby the day’s other Hong Kong Group 1, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, produced an equally superb finish between Happy Zero and Fellowship in which the runner-up appeared sure to gun down the winner with 50m to go.

Happy Zero and Darren Beadman weren’t ready to accept it, however, and although Zac Purton got Fellowship almost level a few strides from the post, the pair just would not let him get past, and maintained their short head advantage to the line.

Winning trainer John Moore thought the Champions Mile, and then perhaps the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot might be the route for the winner who, like the runner up, would probably prefer 1400m, described by him as both horses’ “pet distance”, to either the 1600m of the former race or the 1200m of the latter.

Winning owner David Boehm, thrilled by “my first Group 1 success which is still sinking in” concurred, adding that: “It’s exciting to think of going to the Golden Jubilee and taking on the best horses in the world. It really shows Hong Kong is on the map internationally.”



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