Can Lyle Hewitson be the next Douglas Whyte- and more?
The above is a question asked by some and answered in the affirmative by most Hong Kong racing fans. Like the one-time “Durban Demon”, Lyle Hewitson is from South Africa and shows all the steely determination that was one of the hallmarks of his more illustrious countryman and Hong Kong’s champion jockey for thirteen consecutive years. Having this racing season built up what looks to be a strong association with the 51 year old Douglas Whyte, Trainer, and his stable, the 25 year old Hewitson couldn’t really have asked for a better mentor and guiding light in the ultra competitive whirlpool that’s racing in Hong Kong.
At the peak of his powers, Douglas Whyte rode the tight and idiocyncratic Happy Valley track better than any other jockey when ruling horse racing in the city. It’s often said that he knew every single blade of grass at the city track. Possibly. Douglas Whyte rarely leaves anything to chance. Having watched the “evolution” of Lyle Hewitson, he’s a quick learner.
Currently lying fourth in the Hong Kong Jockey standings with twenty winners, like Whyte, nothing much gets past him. Don’t let that schoolboy charm fool you. Coming from a racing family, he’s sèen much already and has no doubt been laying down plans for his future from the time he decided to become a jockey.
His reading and confidence in riding at the Happy Valley track is easy to see. Though not a stats man, it would be no surprise if his strike rate here is higher than at Shatin. This is not to say that he can’t ride both race tracks equally well and with great success. What’s more important is that Hewitson keeps improving- and rapidly- as a rider. Again, like Whyte, he uses the “persuader” economically. Instead, like most jockeys from South Africa, he relies on his upper body strength to keep pushing and pushing his rides for maximum effect. He is very hard to get past in a close finish whereas his judge of pace is second to none. What Lyle Hewitson needs now is to be the regular rider for a galloper able to win Group 1 winners. Like Vincent Ho has Golden Sixty, Karis Teetan has Romantic Warrior and Zac Purton is spoilt for choice, Hewitson’s next primary career objective should be to work towards improving his “ratings”.
He needs to make sure he’s seen by the Hong Kong jockey Club as an international calibre rider who, for example, should represent South Africa in events like the Hong Kong International Jockeys Championships, and where things like this lead to him being offered the reins of a future champion galloper. Easier said than done, but still... What often travels under the radar and is rarely part of the narrative is that the rider was one of four jockeys involved in the melee that occurred on Hong Kong International Race day two years ago. He was laid up with injuries for around two months and clawed his back to race riding.
Again, it’s that steely determination to succeed and then keep succeeding. His comeback to competitive race riding makes these successes all the more admirable. What’s next for Lyle Hewitson? There might be the occasional riding stints in Japan during the off-season, but for the near future, Hong Kong looks to be his home base.
His wife Hannah is in Hong Kong with him and he’s invested too much time and effort plus marketing himself to go anywhere else. And for what? Start up somewhere new all over again where he’s an unknown? This would be silly. Lyle Hewitson is not silly. He’s also much more than a “young gun”.
Someone like Lyle has come along- really come along- at a time when there’s a very noticeable changing of the TikTok guard taking place in every industry including horse racing. Tick tick tick... Time waits for no one, and with the future in mind, if one is to stay in the racing game, there’s a need to be more than a “jockey”. In every career, it’s about being able to have the bullets to offer more and be more. As for racing, it has to be more than “the punt”. For a well educated young talent like Lyle Hewitson, there’s the need to look at which business model works best for him- a 5-10 year business plan with a contingency plan kept under wraps. No one knows what lies ahead despite all the plans being made. The only thing certain is its uncertainty...and this can be incredibly exciting for someone with time on their side. Lyle Hewitson has time on his side- and the knowledge and talent to succeed.
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