Lyle Hewitson earned a long-awaited and deserved first Happy Valley win last night (Wednesday, 22 January) to help trainer David Ferraris continue his solid form this term, particularly with his stable’s old-stagers.
The two-time South African champion jockey has had a stark introduction to Hong Kong racing, with his stats rolling into tonight’s nine-race card reading one win from 174 rides – a win strike rate of 0.57%.
But Hewitson has not buckled in the face of limited opportunities. After enduring a barren four months before sealing his breakthrough Hong Kong win at Sha Tin, the extra 24 days for his Valley follow-up must have seemed a breeze.
“It’s probably a lot more exciting here at the Valley with the atmosphere,” Hewitson said after driving the Ferraris-trained Kiram (116lb) to a neck verdict in the Class 3 Hung To Handicap (1650m).
“Without blowing my own trumpet, I feel I’ve been riding really well and getting positive results from limited opportunities. Obviously, when I get that little bit of a squeak I have to make the most of it.”
Ferraris, 56, was pleased for his 22-year-old countryman whose talent, he believes, deserves more success.
“It’s lovely,” the trainer said. “Lyle should have ridden a lot more winners, but as a client of mine said, this is a cruel place; and there’s no reason why certain jockeys should be riding winners and he isn’t, because he is, in my opinion, better than a lot of them riding here. But that’s the way it goes.”
Kiram’s win was his second this season from only four outings, suggesting the nine-year-old French import is racing as well as he ever has. And it followed a success at Sha Tin on Sunday for Ferraris’ eight-year-old Magnetism, another two-time winner this term.
“Him and Magnetism, I love training these old boys,” the handler said. “I take pride in keeping them sound and they’re just wonderful old horses and I make sure they go to nice homes when it’s time to retire.
“I told Lyle to lead because there didn’t seem to be much pace on and this old horse is in great form, and I knew that if he kicked at the top of the straight with a lead they’d struggle to catch him.”
Hewitson took the bull by the horns with 900m to race, allowing his mount to stride to the front; the 39/1 shot was determined in holding off runner-up Farshad (112lb).
“It was really nice to overcome a deep draw (10), there were a lot of things against the horse and he’s pulled that off, so it’s a win full of merit and one I think I can be pretty proud of,” Hewitson said.
“Although this horse is probably at his best in Class 4, he had a light weight and with no speed in the race we adopted tactics that won him the race, so that’s a feather in his cap.”
Tony Piccone was also on the mark for the first time at the downtown track, partnering the Tony Millard-trained Sparkling Dragon to a three-quarter-length score in section one of the Class 3 Hoi Yuen Handicap (1200m). The Frenchman, 22 days into his first Hong Kong contract, picked up his three previous wins at Sha Tin.