Lyle Hewitson has known nothing but success during his short career but the 21-year-old says he has steeled himself for the ruthless nature of Hong Kong racing and any dry spells he may encounter.
Despite his tender age, Hewitson has built an impressive resume and comes to Hong Kong on the back of 219 winners in South Africa last season.
“Having ridden that many winners last season, that’s not going to happen here,” he said. “That’s the truth and I’m at peace with that.
“It’s all about just building up and staying positive. I think I’m quite an optimistic person and mentally strong enough to deal with that. I’m realistic and it’s about building up.”
With a maturity that belies his years, Hewitson seems well equipped to handle the mantle of Hong Kong’s youngest jockey and those in the know are genuinely excited about just how good he can become.
After notching 73 wins in his first season in 2016, Hewitson claimed South Africa’s champion apprentice title the following year with 124 wins.
He was even better again in 2017-18 collecting 184 wins, in the process becoming the first apprentice to take out the South African jockeys’ premiership since 1973.
After taking it to another level last season and winning his second title, Hewitson is confident he is ready to handle the step-up to Hong Kong.
“I was in a comfortable position in South Africa, I was doing really well and I was with a great stable but this opportunity was something I couldn’t turn down,” said Hewitson, who is the latest in a long line of South African jockeys to ply their trade at Sha Tin.
“I’ve been given a lot of advice from a lot of the jockeys that have ridden here. Of course, South Africans have ridden well here in the past and achieved a lot so I think they have kind of paved the way for someone like me to continue that trend.
“I’ve spoken to the likes of Anthony Delpech, Anton Marcus, Weichong Marwing, and of course Dougie Whyte is still here – those sort of people have all given me their comments and I’ll take that to heart and make the most of it.”
Hewitson, who can ride as light as 115 pounds, has secured five rides for Sunday’s season opener at Sha Tin and is confident he can make a strong start to what he hopes will be a long and fruitful stint in Hong Kong.
“To have five rides on such a competitive card, I’m pretty proud of that,” he said. “Every single one of the rides I think is competitive in their respective fields and if we can hit the board pretty early that would be a great start.
“I won’t be putting a numerical goal ahead of me but the main thing is to tick over and gain the trust of owners and trainers and do well enough to extend my contract, then from there have the confidence to build a long-term contract here in Hong Kong and hopefully be here for years to come.”
Hewitson rides the Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained Mongolian King in the Class Two Tai Mo Shan Handicap (1,400m) and hopes to strike up a partnership with the seven-year-old, who debuted at Group One level in May’s Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.
“Mongolian King obviously drops in class but it might be a touch sharp, although he did trial well and I’m happy with him,” he said.
Hewitson, who also rides Dashing Dart, New Asia Sunrise and Jolly Convergence, is excited about the prospects of the Tony Millard-trained Gold Velvet after the horse finished last season with a solid third at Happy Valley.
“His run at the end of last season was impressive and I think, on his work and everything else, that he is doing well and hopefully he can run a big race,” Hewitson said.