Jenny - Clean
CHAMPION jockey Douglas Whyte claimed the title for a 10th straight season in the most unlikely of places at Happy Valley last night - sitting out the action as Brett Prebble's last chance to dethrone him ticked past.

ALAN AITKEN reports in the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST that in racing terms, the 2009-10 title was a race in which Whyte missed the jump, worked his way through the field, then took a severe check or two at the top of the straight, but finally arrived as the winner on an anti-climactic winless night.

With three races to run, the equation was still doable for Prebble, if he could take the last three events in which he had strong chances - he finished with two seconds and a win, but Jumbo Gold's second to Soaring River was the end of the chase and Whyte didn't even ride in the race.

"It's an unusual feeling - I don't think I've ever won a championship from the room like that as a spectator and I don't think it will ever happen again - you know me, I would always prefer to be out there in the action," Whyte said.

"But it's been a very satisfying win, definitely the best of my 10 championships. I think Brett and I really stretched each other, really put it out there and it doesn't get old winning these. It's always a thrill."

And Whyte revealed the external inspiration for his resurgence after Prebble had led him by as many as 16 wins at one stage of the season - comments from his arch-rival that appeared in Australian newspapers earlier this year and some of the opinions there that followed.

"I have to say that I thought the comments were disappointing and unsportsmanlike - things along the lines of I'd been here too long and it would be better for Hong Kong to have a change.

"It was uncalled for and I think some of the press guys there wrote me off and said as much," Whyte said.

"It was all uncalled for and, well, I'm happy to have made a few people eat humble pie tonight."

Needing a significant night's work to wrest from Whyte the championship that Prebble had led for most of the season, the Australian had to make do with the Caspar Fownes-trained Perfect Style's win in the final race, leaving him one short of Whyte in the championship and also one short of his other goal for the term, a century of wins.

"It just wasn't meant to be," Prebble said. "There wasn't a lot I could do about tonight. It was going to be hard and ended up impossible."

The one-win margin was the second in Hong Kong's professional history, with Tony Cruz going down by a single win 23 years ago to P. H. Chan.

The tension of the last month wasn't apparent on the faces of either jockey last night, but Whyte's sister, Debbie, who has been visiting from South Africa, told a slightly different tale.

"I was sent out of the house today, out of his hair, and he didn't say much," she laughed.

"The only thing I was able to ask him was: if you were Brett Prebble going to Happy Valley tonight, how would you be thinking?

"He said: `I'd be worried.' I knew two weeks ago when Douglas started to catch Brett Prebble again, that he'd win.

"He's just too strong mentally."

Keith Yeung Ming-lun confirmed his place as Champion Apprentice, Entrapment held on to Most Improved status when a tired Tai Sing Yeh failed to show up in the last race and Flying Supreme's owner received a million-dollar cheque for his horse being the best performed 2008 International horse.

And the night was a triumph for the Jockey Club's move to have the final meeting at Happy Valley with a crowd of almost 29,000, around HK$176 million wagered on the final race alone and the first eight-race Valley meeting that topped the billion-dollar turnover figure since...well, actually nobody could find a record of one.


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