IRC Q&A: Lyle Hewitson
“Everything he touches turns to gold at the moment,” wrote one scribe about the mercurial Lyle Hewitson following his seven wins from 14 rides in Hong Kong last week. This included a treble at Happy Valley last Friday with three successive front-riding rides.
One needs plenty of luck in Hong Kong – everyone knows that. The world’s best jockeys are assembled here but only a handful get the support to make it to the very top. They’re also subject to severe scrutiny from the massive racing public and various superstitions – if you’re considered an ‘unlucky jockey’ your fate is sealed. You may pack up and leave.
Lyle told the media: “It’s been fantastic, and I’ll never take anything for granted any more. I’m just going to keep accepting these opportunities and make the most of them until the end of the season and come back in good spirits for next season.”
Not that he has ever taken anything for granted. Having started as a work rider, he progressed to an apprentice and, at the tender age of 19, he won the South African National jockeys title for the first time in 2017, the first apprentice since the legendary Michael Roberts to do so. He clinched two more titles, the last in 2020/1 when he rode 263 winners with a second-to-none, consistently excellent work rate.
Lyle’s first spell in Hong Kong in 2018 was interrupted by suspension, he was unable to make his mark, but he proved with a most successful spell in Japan thereafter that he indeed has everything it takes to become an international great.
His second Hong King stint was marred by injury after a fall last year and he was side-lined again, but his steely professionalism and belief in himself has brought him back to the limelight again -and he means business now more than ever before.
Lyle is riding regularly for 13-times Hong Kong champion jockey Douglas Whyte – now a trainer who has supported him with good rides. Many would argue that Lyle has the same, measured, professional temperament and people skills that made Whyte the sensation he became. Some would even say he is a better rider than Whyte was at 24.
But Lyle doesn’t believe in conjecture. He has big ambitions, goes about his business quietly and with big respect for his fellow jockeys. He’s a star continually on the rise despite some notable setbacks, and there can be little doubt that a place up at the top is reserved in his name.
1. Full name? Lyle Hewitson
2. Date of Birth? 30 October 1997
3. Steak or sushi? Sushi
4. Superstitions? Nothing in particular
5. Fav Holiday Destination? Haven’t done much holiday travel so I’m not too sure!
6. Which: BMW or Merc? Mercedes
7. Who inspires you the most? My inspiration comes from my desire to make my family and friends proud.
8. Big night out or quiet night in? Quiet night in – but a big night out once in a blue moon does the trick.
9. Left-handed or right-handed? Right Handed.
10. Number of winners and number of Gr1 wins? +- 980 winners, 7 G1.
11. What annoys you the most? Negativity.
12. Hong Kong or Japan? Both are great for their own reasons.
13. Funniest person you have ever met? Raymond Danielson.
14. The Cape Met, Durban July or QEII Cup? QEII because of its huge international recognition (prize money isn’t bad either). From a South African point of view, Durban July would be my pick!
15. Strict whip rules or no whip at all? Whip Rules.
16. What is your biggest phobia? Failure.
17. Most embarrassing moment? Semi-fainted from exhaustion and fell off past the finish line after my last ride on a work riders race day.
18. Colts or fillies? I miss riding the fillies because it is very uncommon for them to race here in HK. I don’t have a preference however.
19. Best friend in Hong Kong? My wife, Hannah.
20. Proudest Achievement? Champion Jockey of South Africa whilst still an apprentice & most wins ever by apprentice in South Africa.
21. Favourite course? Too hard to give a definitive answer.
22. One thing to make racing better for everyone?
A successful result for South Africa with the export protocols would have many benefits in all aspects of the sport.
23. Biggest ambition? To be a genuinely world renowned jockey !
24. Your star sign? Scorpio.
25. Best jockey ridden against in a race? That is hard to answer. I have ridden against some of the best in the world in South Africa, Hong Kong and Japan and to single one out is not something I can do. They are all brilliant in their own right.
26. Bath or shower? Shower – because when I think of bathing it reminds me of sweating to take off weight!
27. Read or Netflix? Netflix.
28. Would you rather ask for permission or ask for forgiveness? Ask for permission.
29. Nominate someone for our Q&A next? Luke Ferraris.
Nominate two horses to follow for the rest of this season? HK: Galaxy Witness & Campione SA: Maharanee & Sparkling Water
Chosen charity for readers to donate to: (if you have one?)