As if having Zac Purton, Joao Moreira and Karis Teetan among a raft of talented jockeys wasn’t enough, the pool of Hong Kong Jockey Club riders has deepened with the additions of Blake Shinn and Lyle Hewitson ahead of the 2019/20 season opener at Sha Tin on Sunday, 1 September.
Hewitson is a precocious two-time champion jockey in South Africa; Shinn is a former Sydney champion riding into town off a hot streak in Australia. Both were unveiled at a media gathering this morning (Tuesday, 27 August) and both stressed that their being there was the fulfillment of a long-held “dream”.
“I had these aspirations to ride in Hong Kong at a young age, so when the phone call came there was no hesitation in saying yes,” Shinn said, while Hewitson echoed that sentiment, affirming that “It’s any jockey’s dream, to come here.”
Hewitson, 21, has been turning heads beyond his homeland for a couple of years now. One year ago he became the first South African apprentice to claim the overall national title since Michael Roberts in 1973; his second title, achieved this summer, set a new record haul of 219 wins.
“I’m really blessed to be in this position,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily a decision: I was in a position that I was doing really well for a great stable at home but this opportunity was something I couldn’t turn down.”
Shinn, 31 and a Melbourne Cup-winning rider, is looking forward to advancing his profile on the world scene. He sees Hong Kong as the ideal stage.
“Competing on that world stage is something I’ve always aspired to do,” he said. “I’ve followed the great jockeys like Frankie Dettori and Darren Beadman, they’re my idols, they’re the blokes that I want to try and be like.
“Hong Kong, for me, it’s the Mecca for racing around the world. Darren Beadman had great years here for John Moore, you have great horses coming here at the international meetings; I remember things like Falbrav and Dettori here, those things stick in my memory. I just hope one day I get that chance to be that jockey winning the big races, so now I’m here I’m very excited.”
Sunday and beyond