where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2024-02-16 07:30:00  
South African Whyte calls Star Horse a Dream come true

Douglas Whyte is proud as punch to train Russian Emperor and the fifth-season handler isn’t taking any of it for granted as he targets further history in the Middle East with the two-time Hong Kong Champion Stayer (2021/22 & 2022/23).


“He’s the highlight of my career at the moment,” Whyte said. “I might never get another one like him. What he’s done and what we’ve done together has been a dream come true.


“It’s been a phenomenal start to my career as a trainer and he’s always going to have a special place in my heart.”


The pair has triumphed in three Group 1 races in Hong Kong and 12 months ago scored a famous victory in Doha, Qatar. One year on, Whyte and his stable star are back and aiming for a second straight G3 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) win on Saturday (17 February) at Al Rayyan.


The likes of Rebel’s Romance, Zeffiro, Israr, Point Lonsdale and more stand in their way.


“It looks slightly stronger on paper. I think it’s a lot more competitive but having said that, our horse has travelled over in good form and he enjoys travelling. I am happy with his condition,” Whyte said. “It’s a strong field but I’m happy.”


“John Gosden doesn’t travel for no reason and his horse (Israr) looks like he has an amazing turn of foot. I think it’s a tougher field but my horse has arrived in good order.


“He’s full of beans. The most important thing is that he gets his head in the feed bin and that he’s finishing up everything – that’s very encouraging,” Whyte said.


A seven-year-old veteran, Russian Emperor has been guided by Whyte across four seasons in Hong Kong and 27 starts. He announced himself with a pair of runner-up efforts in both the 2021 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and 2021 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) during his first campaign.


His Group 1 wins in Hong Kong include a stunning 2022 G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) triumph ahead of Golden Sixty, as well as two G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) crowns in 2022 and 2023, most recently over Romantic Warrior.


Jockey Alberto Sanna rides Russian Emperor for the fourth time and believes his local knowledge of Al Rayyan may once again prove invaluable.


“It’s not an easy track to ride and you must know the track. It’s like if they made a Group 1 at Happy Valley, not many jockeys can ride well at Happy Valley first time out. Of course, if you keep riding you learn about the track,” Sanna said.


Sanna is one of the circuit’s most accomplished riders. He won the championship in Qatar last season and is a three-time H.H. The Amir Trophy winner.


“I think Point Lonsdale will go forward, Simca Mille out of the rail and can probably be third or fourth. Then Haunted Dream, I think, will be pushed quite close to the pace, and Israr and Rebel’s Romance are good horses.


“You never know with the Japanese – they always go flat out in Japan – it’s a good field,” Sanna said.


Russian Emperor will likely target winning a third Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup after Saturday. The son of Galileo has suffered a string of setbacks throughout his career, recently injuring a fetlock last November.


“We manage him as best we can. I limit his racing, gallops – pretty much everything. We’ll see how he goes in the Champions & Chater Cup and then we’ll decide (about his future). If he can run competitively in that, then we’ll make a decision,” Whyte said.


Qatar left an indelible mark on Whyte last year and the trainer is adamant he’ll return after Saturday – win or lose.


“They are so hospitable across all aspects of looking after you – quarantine, everything. The city (Doha) is great, the food is great and the people are very hospitable and it’s a lovely team environment, there’s no reason to not want to come back,” he said. 

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