Hewitson, Yeung share limelight with Purton, Size

Lyle Hewitson
Lyle Hewitson notches his first win since December.

On a night dominated by the milestone achievements of Zac Purton and John Size, the enduring resilience of Lyle Hewitson and Keith Yeung was deservedly rewarded when the pair ended frustrating absences from the winners’ circle with overdue success at Happy Valley on Wednesday (2 March).

Purton extended his lead over arch-rival Joao Moreira to four wins with a treble, reaching 80 wins for the season in the process, while 11-time champion Size was the first trainer hit 50 victories for the term to lead Frankie Lor 50-49.

But while Purton and Size continued remarkable campaigns, the efforts of Hewitson and Yeung to end long losing streaks served as a reminder of the value of persistence.

Badly injured in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on 12 December, Hewitson terminated an 83-ride run of outs when Douglas Whyte’s Valiant Elegance led throughout to win the second section of the Class 4 Chatham Handicap (1200m) in the South African’s first victory since 5 December – ironically, aboard Valiant Elegance.

With 26 minor placings and seven wins leading into Wednesday’s meeting, Yeung had been similarly tested by the racing Gods but his determination was rewarded aboard David Hayes-trained Red Majesty in the second section of the Class 3 Bulkeley Handicap (1650m) in an uplifting success for both jockey and trainer.

Yeung had not ridden a winner since partnering Jimmy Ting’s Untold Riches at Sha Tin on 27 December, enduring the frustration of 103 mounts without a win, while Hayes is recovering from COVID-19.

“It’s been a long time since the last winner I had and the last winner I had for David Hayes,” Yeung said. “It was a tight finish, he was a little bit tired at the end but I had an easy run. We led without pressure, which makes it easier for him and he’s a horse who needs to keep the pace going.”

For Hewitson, Valiant Elegance’s triumph delivered validation and relief.

“I’ve always been someone with a positive mindset and I’ve been optimistic because of the fact big-priced horses have been running well. A lot of horses have gone close,” he said. “It’s really good to win aboard this fellow. He’s been really good to me. Dougie has given me so much support and so many rides have been placings, so it’s good to get a winner for him.”

Whyte empathised with his compatriot as the stable’s strong run continued.

“It must be very challenging for him, this particular horse has been very good to him but, having said that, he’s had a numerous amount of placings for me, the horses have raced well and he’s ridden them well, we’ve just been very unlucky on a couple,” Whyte said.

“You need something like tonight to change that around from a mental point of view. He’s been strong enough, mentally. He’s been a workaholic – he’s got a great temperament about him – but he needed something like this tonight.

“When someone runs that many seconds and placings and you don’t have a win, it starts to play with your mind a little bit and it was good for him to get one across the line.”

Size notched his 50th win of the season – at the 50th meeting of the term – when Karis Teetan and Zone D successfully combined in the first section of the Class 3 Bulkeley Handicap (1650m), the gelding’s second triumph in succession over the course and distance.

Zac Purton
Zac Purton has 45 wins at Happy Valley this season.

Purton has reigned supreme at Happy Valley with 19 wins at the city circuit from his past 44 rides with bags of five, four, three, four and three at the past five meetings – and his latest assault started aboard injury-prone galloper Dragon Pride, who claimed the Class 5 Wuhu Handicap (1650m) for Benno Yung.

“The key is trying to keep him sound because he’s got a lot of problems,” Yung said. “He’s got a bad back, knee and fetlock and before he came to my stable, the plan was to retire him but thankfully I was allowed to give him time to fix him and get him back in condition.

“He’s got ability and if I can keep him sound, he will be alright.”

Purton then coaxed the best out of Nothing Impossible to clinch the Class 4 Po Loi Handicap (1800m) for Francis Lui. The grey, who won twice in England for David Simcock when he raced as Luckiness, struggled in his first four Hong Kong starts, but Lui believes the gelding is only now maturing.

Purton clocked his treble on Frankie Lor’s Lucky Archangel in the first section of the Class 4 Chatham Handicap (1200m) to become the first jockey to reach 80 wins for the 2021/22 season.

Moreira registered his first win since resuming from suspension when Yung’s Happy Jai Jai cruised home in the Class 4 Gillies Handicap (1650m) before the talented Nicconi County edged out Nothing New to land the first section of the Class 3 Baker Handicap (1200m) for Caspar Fownes and provided Teetan with a double.

Imported to Hong Kong after running second in the Listed Without Fear Stakes (1050m) at Morphettville for Leon and Troy Corstens in May, 2021, Nicconi County shaded Group 1 winner Sky Field in a recent 1000m trial at Sha Tin.

Manfred Man’s Lucky Sweynesse closed the meeting in emphatic fashion, maintaining an unblemished record with runaway success in the second section of the Class 3 Baker Handicap (1200m) for Moreira, who sealed a brace.

Still only a three-year-old, Lucky Sweynesse prevailed in equally brilliant fashion on debut at Happy Valley on 9 February.

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