The last time Lyle Hewitson rode in a Gr1 race he was partnering Sean Tarry’s soldier Cirillo in the Gr1 Champions Cup at Hollywoodbets Greyville. The occasion was the culmination of the last South African racing season on Super Saturday, 27 July.
Now in the final weeks of his short-term and confidence boosting Japanese contract, he has his first Gr1 strike since Cirillo ran a gutsy third behind Rainbow Bridge and Soqrat, when he partners Makahiki in the Gr1 Osaka Hai over 2000m at Hanshin on Sunday.
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Lyle’s biggest offshore success came aboard Galore Creek in the Gr2 Spring Stakes and he will be looking to build on his nine win tally from 72 starts in the Land Of The Rising Sun.
“I’ve ridden in about six Group races in Japan and I’ve been in the first three four times, so a winner and three placings, I’m pretty pleased with the results,” he told the South China Morning Post.
Makahiki is an outsider in a field headlined by Blast Onepiece, Danon Kingly and Chrono Genesis but Lyle says his mount has proven his ability.
“As a younger horse he was exceptional, he won big races in Japan and he went over to France and won a Group Two prep and lined up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2016,” Hewitson said.
“Although the Arc didn’t go well, the fact he went there shows what he was thought of. He is obviously a horse full of ability but in all seriousness he is getting on a bit – he’s seven years old – and he hasn’t won in three-and-a-half years, so it looks unlikely for him.But you just have to look at his Japan Cup run when he was fourth last year, he is showing some signs of life still.”