Lyle Hewitson is denied victory in the first leg of the Challenge by Rachel King, who was having her first ever ride in Hong Kong (HKJC)
Lyle Hewitson entered the last leg of the Longines International Jockeys Challenge (IJC) at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday) in the lead thanks to three prominent finishes in the first three legs.
In the all important last leg Hewitson was on the Frankie Lor-trained Lucky Archangel, who was paying 11.00 on the Tote. He managed to get on to the rail in a handy position from draw six, but this horse was never traveling like a winner and after making a brief bid down the inside he faded into a disappointing tenth place.
Local jockey Vincent Ho won the race on the David Hayes-trained Tomodachi Kokoroe, who was paying 7.20 on the Tote.
The win also clinched the IJC for Ho.
Ho, in the understatement of the year when asked how he felt about winning the Challenge, replied, “Oh I won it?”
Ho had earlier kept himself in the hunt for the HK$600,000 first prize when finishing third in each of the first two legs.
He became Hong Kong’s first home-grown jockey to win the IJC.
Ho claimed the title with 20 points – 12 for a win, six for second and four for third – from Purton (18) and King (16). Hewitson also finished on 16 points.
In the first leg over 1000m Hewitson pinged the gates from barrier position 12 of 12 on the Douglas Whyte-trained 20/1 shot Harmony Fire. The pacey gelding hit the front in the straight but was mowed down by the David Hall-trained Oversubscribed, who was paying 10.00 on the Tote and was ridden by Rachel King.
In the second leg over 1650m Hewitson was aboard the Tony Cruz-trained Red Hare King (So You Think) and he managed to get him into the perfect one out and one back position with cover after jumping from draw three. The horse ran on well in the straight but was no match for the Caspar Fownes-trained favourite M Unicorn, who swept past and won comfortably under Ryan Moore. Hewitson’s vigorous driving saw Red Hare King clinging on to second place by a hair’s breadth.
In the third leg over 1650m he was on the Frankie Lor-trained All Beauty, who was paying 10.00 on the Tote and was drawn four. Hewitson got him on to the rail in midfield and his determined driving in the straight enabled him to get up for third in a race won by Zac Purton on the Francis Lui-trained Silver Sonic.
Ho said later about his historic achievement, “I was not aware (I had won) and I didn’t even know about the points, I just kept riding every race to have a winning chance.”
“I felt the track today favoured the front-runners a little bit so that definitely helped and of course Mr Hayes’ team did a great job and helped me win this.”
Ho is now firmly established among the world’s elite. But, when reminded of his time serving as an attendant to the riders on IJC night when still an apprentice, the 33-year-old revealed the humble side to his nature that has endeared him to racing fans just as much as his excellence in the saddle.
Ho said: “Christophe (Soumillon), Frankie (Dettori) and Ryan (Moore) were always my idols, right up until today, and I keep learning from those good jockeys, those good horsemen. There’s still plenty to improve to (get to) their levels.”
Reflecting on his historic achievement, Ho said: “Especially after a tough injury, coming back to win this, I’m really grateful for. Hopefully this will inspire more generations to come and the Hong Kong people especially.
“As the first homegrown of course I received plenty of support here and hopefully it will inspire more kids.”
Ho can now look forward to getting back aboard his “best friend” in Golden Sixty, while Rachel King will return to Australia well satisfied with her IJC debut.