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Taking Aim justifies Douglas Whyte’s faith after breaking back into winners’ list

April 18, 2021, 8:55:08 AM

Taking Aim, who had been winless for more than two years, completed a long, eventful journey from the verge of forced retirement to Sha Tin's winners' stall after trouncing his rivals in the Class 3 Devon Handicap (1400m) on Saturday (17 April).

The Choisir gelding has only raced once in 17 starts since the end of the 2018/19 season after injuring his nearside hock in a float mishap two years ago. If owner Edwin Cheung had not persisted, the chestnut would almost undoubtedly have been retired.

“He was seriously wounded in the float on the way up to Conghua and had to have a big operation,” Whyte explained after sharing a double to exchange training honors with Benno Yung.

"He fucked up his whole hock." He appeared to be forced to retire, but the owner took the initiative and decided on the operation. Paul Robinson (Club veterinarian) did an incredible job of bringing him back.”

Because of a feared aversion to floats, Whyte was forced to campaign the six-year-old almost entirely at Sha Tin.

The former champion jockey has only sent the sprinter to Happy Valley once due to questions over how the horse could respond in a float.

“He goes into a float well, but you never know what happens after that. “I had to find a special trailer for him to take him to Happy Valley (23 December, 2020) because he's clearly a little pedantic about being in a float,” Whyte said after apprentice Jerry Chau cruised to a three-length victory on the patched-up gelding.

“We're lucky that we can already get him through the gates. We've put in a lot of effort with him. He seems to have regained his trust.

“When he's in the float, it's a gamble. Memory is a wonderful thing. If something went wrong, the consequences may be much worse than a hock.

G1-placed behind Capital Gain in the 2017 J. J. Atkins (1600m), Taking Aim also finished second to champion Kiwi Melody Belle in the G2 BRC Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) for Peter and Paul Snowden before being shipped to Hong Kong.

“We know he can deliver, and he demonstrated that to me at home – he only wanted stuff to go his way,” Whyte added. “He's doing better over shorter distances. He stood up today as a fit horse and dominated.”

Whyte praised Carroll Street's maturation after the pint-sized gelding won the Class 3 Cornwall Handicap (1000m) for Vincent Ho, bringing his 2020/21 tally to 21 victories.

“He was little when he arrived. He's grown a lot, but he still looks thin. Apart from a growth spurt, he's been through behavioral changes,” Whyte said of the Outreach gelding, who arrived in Hong Kong as an unraced prospect in April.

“He's come from the bush and gone ‘wow,' but he's one of those who's gotten incrementally better each time, and it has a lot to do with Conghua.

“He had a significant amount of mucus (after his last start), and I gave him time to recover at Conghua, and he's returned in good health. Mentally, he returned a stronger horse.

"It's a huge relief. More than anything, I believe he enjoyed the opportunity to relax.”

Benno Yung matched Whyte's brace after Zac Purton assisted in Alloy Star's first victory in his 15th Hong Kong try, winning the Class 5 Suffolk Handicap (1200m).

Yung completed a double with Shanghai Dragon, who was given a superb front-running ride by Karis Teetan and won the Class 4 Somerset Handicap for the third time in four starts (1800m).

“The stable is doing fine, and the horses are doing well,” said Yung. “I hope there are more winners.”

Antoine Hamelin won his first race since early March when the John Size-trained Red Desert won the Class 2 Alnwick Handicap (dirt, 1200m) in the tightest finish of the day.

“He run a lovely race, drawn midfield, but the horse was really fast at the outset, so I was able to pick up a nice spot before the turn,” said Hamelin, who now has 21 wins this season.

“The horse is a fighter,” says the rider. The gap, the surface – all was working in his favor today, so he won. It was ideal.”

Unicornbaby's success in the Class 4 Kent Handicap (1400m) was credited to Hamelin's compatriot Tony Piccone's initiative after the Frenchman dominated the race despite drawing barrier 13.

“We weren't planning to lead the chase, but he jumped so well, and Tony took advantage of the moment, and he never looked like he was going to lose in the straight – perfect ride,” Gibson said.

“The horse has health issues, and I'm sure the ground played a role in today's victory.

“It's a great accomplishment for the jockey.”

So We Joy showed impressive versatility to win the Class 3 Dorset Handicap (1650m) for Derek Leung, giving David Hayes his first victory on the dirt this year.

“It's nice to have a dirt and turf horse, but he won like he had a class in hand,” Hayes said after winning his 19th race of the year.

“He's a multi-talented horse. He's my first dirt winner of the year, and things are looking up at the barn.

“He is an older horse, which I don't have much of, but I do have a couple of younger horses. I believe the outlook looks promising for the end of this season and for next season.”

Apprentice Alfred Chan also put in a strong performance aboard Flying Bonus to help Dennis Yip win the Class 3 Cumberland Handicap (dirt, 1200m) ahead of Sky Show and Harmony Spirit.

Lucky Ruby demonstrated his liking for the 1200m dirt course with a second win on the surface, this time in the Class 4 Essex Handicap (1200m) for Manfred Man under Matthew Chadwick.

On Wednesday, racing in Hong Kong resumes at Happy Valley (21 April).