Lyle Hewitson wants more Sha Tin success to compliment his hot Happy Valley form
Smiling Face. It is not only the name of the first of Lyle Hewitson’s full book of Happy Valley rides on Wednesday night but also the expression the South African jockey sports whenever anyone mentions his recent results at Hong Kong’s city circuit.
Hewitson has ridden at least one winner at each of the past 11 Happy Valley meetings in which he has participated, a “Purtonesque” or “Moreiraesque” run – last term, for example, Zac and Joao compiled such streaks of 13 and 14, respectively – that began with his race-to-race-to-race treble aboard World Famous, Valiant Elegance and Xponential on April 27.
No rider has experienced more happy endings to Happy Valley races across the past dozen meetings at the city circuit than Hewitson, even though the three-time South African champion jockey missed the nine-event card in town on June 1.
Over that period, the Happy Valley medallists are Hewitson (16 wins), Purton (12) and Moreira (10), with the 24-year-old rising star deservedly on the gold step of the dais.
Asked to attribute his Happy Valley data to one factor above all others, Hewitson credits “good horses”, but number crunchers who analyse betting odds and racing results insist he is too modest.
Actual versus Expected (A/E) is a statistical metric that compares a jockey’s actual number of winners with their expected number of winners.
The A/E base mark is one, which indicates a jockey’s actual number of winners equals their expected number of winners. An A/E mark of above one is good. An A/E mark of below one is bad.
It is nothing short of remarkable that Hewitson’s A/E mark for Happy Valley is 1.49 despite his unhappy start to competing at the city circuit. Hewitson rode 70 Happy Valley losers before celebrating his first victory at the city circuit aboard Kiram.
Pushed to pump up his own tyres, something that is essential in Hong Kong’s uniquely competitive racing environment but unnatural to Hewitson, he says he has been making the correct calls at Happy Valley since his confidence-boosting treble last season.
“I can’t compare Happy Valley to any track back home in South Africa. We don’t have many tracks with such undulations and cambers,” Hewitson said.
“But it’s a track where simple decisions can win you races. You don’t necessarily have to be on the best horse. Just make the right move at the right time.”
Making the right moves at the right times at Happy Valley has led to Hewitson’s self-belief soaring, irrespective of at which Hong Kong track he is competing against some of the world’s best jockeys.
“I expect to have a winner. If I leave any meeting without a winner – it’s crazy to say from where I was – it’s not been a good meeting,” Hewitson said.
“Sometimes, I’ll have a winner, but it’s the horses who didn’t win or didn’t have every opportunity to win I get frustrated about. That shows where my level of competitiveness and ambition is at. It’s really hard to have a perfect day at the moment.”
A day that would surely satisfy Hewitson’s criteria for perfection would be a Group One victory aboard his new favourite horse, Russian Emperor, whom he trialled for the first time at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning.
“He pulled up needing the trial. He had a good blow. I made sure he worked right through so he could come on from it. It was only a stepping stone in his preparation. He’ll have one more good gallop on the turf before he goes to the races,” Hewitson said.
Trainer Douglas Whyte reports Russian Emperor is likely to run first-up in the Group Two Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) on October 16.
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