Sunday will see Stephen Whyte vie for his third Darwin Cup, but surprisingly that isn’t the most amazing part of Whyte’s 2018 Darwin Cup campaign.
Having won the Group 3 Darwin Cup in 2014 with Clash Of Kings and in 2015 with litter brother Superfonic, Whyte’s hope of a Darwin Cup treble lies with Weeona Jimmy.
Weeona Jimmy heads into his first Group race lucky to have even made it back to the track after a yard incident which saw him spend more than five weeks in the vet.
“The vet wasn’t confident he would survive let alone race again,” owner, trainer and breeder Stephen Whyte said.
“We thought best case scenario he would be a pet, so to have made it to the track and then into the Darwin Cup is a huge achievement for us and the dog.”
Slow and steady was the recovery method for Weeona Jimmy. After more than four months recovering at his own pace, Weeona Jimmy started showing signs he was wanting to race again.
“He was pulling up from his galloping with no pain, so we thought the next step was to trial him. I have a time standard I like my dogs to run to and he ran within a length of some good dogs – I was amazed,” Whyte said.
Weeona Jimmy made his return at Horsham on July 7 where he ran second to Queen Coriander. He then went to Warragul and won in a time of 22.62sec.
And then came the Darwin Cup series.
Whyte is a regular in Darwin come Cup time having previously tasted success. You could almost say he is addicted to the series.
“I have met so many people and made a lot of friends since I started going to Darwin. Everyone cheers each other on and it is more like a holiday.”
Whyte was the only Victorian trainer to venture to Darwin for the Cup heats this year.
After exploding from box three, Weeona Jimmy didn’t just win his Darwin Cup heat, he recorded a best of the night time of 31.70sec.
“Weeona Jimmy hadn’t raced or trialled longer than 400 metres in six months so we knew heading into the Darwin Cup heats (537metres) he was a little underdone,” Whyte said.
“I am told he also broke the first sectional record.”
2018 Darwin Cup box draw
1. Crocodile Crush (NT) Steele Bolton
2. Stanga Bolt (WA) Tim Mullany
3. Confinement (WA) James Jeffries
4. Weeona Jimmy (VIC) Stephen Whyte
5. Pride Of Charlie (WA) James Jeffries
6. Del Rey (QLD) Tom Tzouvelis
7. Soft Sand (QLD) Tom Tzouvelis
8. Joyce Rumble (NSW) Stephen Kavanagh
9. Allen Ichiro (NT) Russell Savige
10. Rockoon (SA) Tracie Price
Weeona Jimmy has drawn box four in the Group 3 Darwin Cup, and Whyte is heading into the $25,000 to-the-winner feature with confidence his contender will improve after a race start on the track.
“If he steps like he did last week he is in with a big chance,” Whyte said.