Individually, Douglas Whyte is Hong Kong racing’s most successful jockey and Lyle Hewitson is South African racing’s most successful apprentice and a three-time champion in his homeland.
Collectively, Whyte and Hewitson – relative newcomers to Hong Kong’s cutthroat training and riding ranks, respectively – are Bafana Bafana, the boys who are scoring more goals than the South African football stars synonymous with the Zulu-language nickname.
Whyte and Hewitson teamed up to bag a brace at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, those two wins improving the compatriot combination’s 2022-23 season record to three triumphs from 20 appearances together.
Last term, Whyte – the Durban Demon – and Hewitson, whose non-racing hobbies include supporting Durban-based rugby union side the Sharks, engaged in 155 pre-race conversations and 20 post-race celebrations.
All up since their Hong Kong association began in November 2019, Whyte has saddled 24 of Hewitson’s 33 winners (72.7 per cent) and the deity has supplied 210 of his disciple’s 628 rides (33.4 per cent).
Jockey Club rules prohibit, over the course of a full Hong Kong season, trainers having more than 50 per cent of their runners ridden by an individual rider and riders accepting more than 40 per cent of their race rides from an individual trainer.
While acknowledging the 2022-23 Hong Kong campaign is only four meetings deep into its 88-fixture programme, Whyte has provided 20 of Hewitson’s 30 starters (66.6 per cent) and the jockey has piloted all except three of the trainer’s 23 runners (86.9 per cent), with only Karis Teetan (two rides) and Luke Ferraris (one ride) also getting a look in.
Hewitson, whose nine-ride book at Sha Tin on Sunday includes four of Whyte’s seven Celebration Cup Day declarations, knows the regulations and his lopsided trainer-jockey statistics as well as anyone.
If there was ever a jockey-trainer combination to follow in Hong Kong... @LyleHewitson and @DJWhyteTrainer do it again for a double on the card as Durham Star sweeps to victory in the finale at Happy Valley. ✌️ @SAJockeyAcademy | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/9S1TyGfFlc— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) September 21, 2022
“I’m trying, but it’s so hard if you can’t get a ride in a race to say no to another horse,” said Hewitson, whom Whyte has hired to partner Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m) contender Will Power in Sunday’s feature event and to steer Double Show, Boom Alliance and Beauty Champ later on the card.
“I’m aware of it. You can’t say ‘oh, I can’t ride it, I don’t want to ride it’, especially to start off with, when all the horses are ready to run. They’ll start to space out now. It should be OK.”
Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding, whose job it is to ensure trainers and jockeys adhere to the rules, has only nice words to say about Whyte and Hewitson’s current affiliation.
“The support Douglas has given to Lyle has been great to see, and this is important to establishing new talents in such a highly competitive environment,” said Harding, who confirmed it would not be until later in the season the Jockey Club may need to consider individual cases on their merits.
Developing a reputation as a Happy Valley specialist – he has posted at least one winner during each of the past 11 city-circuit meetings at which he has worn his silks – Hewitson is seeking his first Sha Tin success since the Whyte-trained HK Dragon’s win on July 16, the final day of the 2021-22 campaign.
Beauty Champ, who Hewitson has ridden on both of his starts since he joined Whyte’s stable from the yard of Danny Shum Chap-shing late last season, is one of the 24-year-old jockey’s nine Sunday assignments.
“It’s really unfortunate he’s drawn that barrier [11 of 14],” said Hewitson of Class Three Fuk Loi Handicap (1,400m) contestant Beauty Champ.
“He’s improved a lot. He was very difficult to start off with. You saw how he fought me on his first run, and his runs prior to that. But then the other day from a good draw [gate three] he was lovely in the race and he stayed on. He’s a big, gross horse, so he probably needed that.
“I’d expect him to be pretty much cherry ripe, and from the mental side of things he’s really in a good place. It’s just because he’s a sort of tricky ride that the draw certainly doesn’t help but ability wise, yes, he’s a big chance.”