Lyle Hewitson notched his 100th winner in Hong Kong and ended a “very frustrating” drought with a surprise success aboard $21 chance Parterre at Sha Tin on Monday.
The South African rider went eight meetings and 72 rides without a winner but did not appear short of confidence when he dictated proceedings in the second section of the Class Four Good Fortune Handicap (1,200m).
After assuming the lead from gate three, Hewitson took his 13 rivals along at a reasonable pace, with the first 800m a quarter of a second slower than standard time.
The pair saw off a brief challenge from Jazz Gold and galloped all the way to the line to finish a length clear of the fast-finishing Patch Of Theta.
While the 26-year-old jockey was pleased to snap his run of outs and reach the century mark, he hopes it will be one of many milestone he reaches in the city.
“It’s great to ride 100 winners in Hong Kong, but I thought it was just a small box to tick in what’s to come in my career here,” Hewitson said. “It’s another winner, most importantly, and hopefully in the long run it’s just a small box to tick.
“There was a bit of hype around reaching 100 winners, and then it started to take a while – it’s one of my longest droughts since 2019. It was very frustrating, but I just kept my head down, because I thought I wasn’t doing too much wrong. Hopefully, the floodgates can open again.”
It’s not the first time Hewitson has been forced to wait for a win in the ultra-competitive jurisdiction, snapping a run of 140 outs aboard the Douglas Whyte-trained Last Kingdom to land his first Hong Kong success in December 2019.
Two-time South African champion jockey @LyleHewitson 🇿🇦 secures his first Hong Kong 🇭🇰 win after making all aboard the @DJWhyteJockey-trained Last Kingdom! 🍾 @SAJockeyAcademy #HKracing pic.twitter.com/kskX5eCFeY— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 29, 2019
While he did not have to wait anywhere near as long to get off the number 99, Hewitson booted home Parterre in a similar fashion to his breakthrough victory, with the rider steering Last Kingdom to a wire-to-wire success over four years ago.
“I just needed to fine-tune a few things recently and get a bit of luck go my way. It was nice to do it on an important day in Hong Kong racing,” Hewitson said of the bumper Lunar New Year fixture at Sha Tin.
“The problem is, when you aren’t having the winners, you probably judge yourself a bit more critically. It was quite important to just keep a level head and keep knocking at the door.”
Winless from five runs this season since leaving the Tony Millard yard, Parterre had failed to fill a place since a 1,400m victory at Sha Tin in July last year.
After the seven-year-old dropped back to his last winning mark for Monday’s sprint, Hewitson executed a carefully constructed plan orchestrated by trainer Chris So Wai-yin, who ticked along to 15 wins for the season.
“We were supposed to run the horse next week, but I had a chat with Chris and we moved him back to the 1,200m,” Hewitson said. “It was a great plan set up by Chris because by dropping to this distance he was able to gain confidence and change his mindset.
“Having dropped in class with two nice horses in the race, they were horses that get back so I thought I could take advantage of that from a nice draw. We were tactically astute on a well-prepared horse and it paid off.”
Parterre’s success moved Hewitson to 20 for the season and up to seventh in the championship.