Lyle passes a record 220 winners
One by one Lyle Hewitson ticks off the boxes. As June arrived which signals two months to go until the end of the 2020/21 racing season, the 23-year-old continued his relentless march to a third South African Jockeys’ Championship.
Another box was ticked at the Vaal yesterday (Tuesday) when Hewitson partnered Last Song to victory in the third race. It was a watershed moment because it took the Kuda-sponsored rider to 220 winners for the season, which constitutes a record for him. When he won his first National Championship, as an apprentice in 2017/18 he booted home 184 winners. A year later he improved that tally to 219 winners and he’s bettered that – and counting.
A double on the day with Encore winning race eight stretched the total to 221.
“Yes, the goal for now is 250 winners for the season,” he admits. “In a profession like this you can only take it one race at a time, but while it’s a difficult target, it’s also realistic,” he says.
220 winners? Tick.
South African champion jockey for a third time? Surely, tick.
A winning ratio of 15 percent? Tick.
Only jockey to have had over 1 000 rides this season, so far? Tick.
“It’s always fantastic to hit milestones, I suppose as you say, tick them off. Let’s see where we can finish up this season. There’s still a lot to play for. Over the closing two months there’s a lot of feature race meetings coming up, but with every ride I have to do my best. While the winners on a personal level are important and pleasing, what’s most important is that I’m putting in my best and getting the most out of the horses for the owners and the trainers that I ride for.”
So, what can we expect from Hewitson over these next two months?
“I’m definitely looking for a few more graded races. The KwaZulu-Natal season is always a great time of year with all the best horses around the country coming together to compete in the big races. The vibes at the track in the morning up until the horses cross the finishing line in the big races is really something else. The KZN people are so passionate about their racing and it’s a great atmosphere to be part of. Obviously, July Day is what we all look forward to!”
Although Hewitson has racked up those 220 winners so far this season, he is yet to win a Grade One event, whereas in his last title-winning campaign two years ago he had four in total. There are four G1s at Hollywoodbets Scottsville this coming Saturday and the jockey has four rides booked – all for trainer Sean Tarry. “I’m grateful for the opportunities and am excited just to be parrt of these big occasions,” he says.
While in KZN he is able to catch up with his father, Carl, who is now a standalone trainer and for whom Lyle has ridden a number of horses. “He’s currently got limited stock, so getting good results when riding for him is always a positive,” Hewitson says.
He has been riding virtually every available race meeting on the calendar and got that record-breaking 220th winner at the Vaal. Today (Wednesday) it was off to the Greyville Poly and tomorrow back to the Vaal. Hewitson feels that as with everything, he takes things as they come with the different surfaces.
“Turf or Poly, it all comes down to the horse that you’re sitting on – which surface they happen to prefer. Riding tactics differ more on the conditions and the type of horse, so again, it’s all about what happens on the day.”
Like everyone, Hewitson was devastated by the recent passing of Nooresh Juglall, who died in hospital hours after a bad fall in Mauritius. “His passing was deeply saddening. He was an amazing person, father, friend and jockey,” Hewitson says. “We all miss him dearly. It served as a reminder of the dangers involved in race-riding, but at the same time we simply can’t let it deter us from doing our job. If there is one thing we can learn from it, it’s that we need to respect one another in races, enjoy what we do and love and appreciate each moment we have.”
The next box to be ticked isn’t 250 winners. There’s a couple of Graded races he’d like to bank before then and of course, he’s also got S’manga Khumalo’s title-winning 243 winners in his 2015/16 campaign in his sights.
SA CHAMPION JOCKEYS WINNERS
2020/21 *221 Lyle Hewitson
2019/20 209 Warren Kennedy
2018/19 219 Lyle Hewitson
2017/18 184 Lyle Hewitson
2016/17 195 Anthony Delpech