Kyle Johnston – A Great Guy Gone Too Young

Memorial service on Thursday 11 July at 14h00

A much-loved and popular horseracing and sports fanatic, Kyle Johnston passed away suddenly at the age of 36 on Friday 5 July, just hours ahead of the 2024 Hollywoodbets Durban July, a race that had consumed his passion from a very young age.

Losing a loved one, friend or colleague is always devastating.  When it happens so suddenly to somebody in the prime of their life, then the shock and tragedy is magnified.

And that is the stark and sad reality of the blow that stunned all of us with the news filtering through of Kyle’s untimely passing as the sun greeted the Saturday dawn over Durban.

But the show went on as Kyle, or ‘Johnny’ as he was known to his legion of friends, would have wanted it to. Jockeys riding horses racing under the Hollywood Syndicate banner on the day wore black armbands as a mark of respect.

Kyle – the schoolboy with a twinkle in his eye

Kyle Marshall Johnston was born on Saturday 12 September 1987 to Robin and Alistair ‘Puppy’ Johnston.

The boisterous lad with the naughty smile, had a ball of various shapes and sizes and a cricket bat in his hand for most of his waking hours, and enthusiastically lived for his sport.

Kyle attended Durban Prep High School and Durban High School, matriculating in 2005, whereafter he completed a B Comm Management degree at Varsity College.

His Dad Alistair was a bookmaker at Kingsmead Tattersalls and spearheaded his son’s interest and passion in horseracing.

Kyle with his Dad

Kyle’s schoolday afternoons were spent absorbing the unique environment and taking in all that happened in the buzz of the tote.

It really was a natural progression that the energetic and extremely bright Kyle graduated to working the desk, laying bets and structuring odds.

His weekends were spent working at Kingsmead Tattersalls, and continued after his Dad’s sudden passing at the age of 53 in 2008.

Kyle then joined Hollywoodbets, a ‘perfect fit’ for him, in the words of his Mom, Robin.

“Horseracing and sport were his life and Hollywoodbets presented Kyle with so many opportunities to live his dream and travel abroad, enjoying international horseracing events. I am so proud of what he achieved and we had endless hours of so much enjoyment together watching sport like the Tour de France, and rugby and cricket on television and discussing it,” reflected his Mom, who recalled that she somehow never went with Kyle to the Hollywoodbets Durban July gallops – until this year.

“We are all so saddened and shocked and one sits now, shattered and reflecting. Kyle and Yavini Pillay (his partner) used to visit me every Tuesday evening. This year, Yav was busy working on the July. So Kyle and I were discussing the final field which had just been announced. He suggested he would pick me up for the gallops on the Thursday. I am so glad that we got that chance to enjoy the special occasion. Just over a week later, he was gone. As a family, we are grateful that he was in the company of friends at the end,” she added.

Kyle loved travelling to international racing events

Robin recalled that Kyle was a good sportsman and a very competitive spirit, who ‘loved to win’.

“Chelsea was his football side for years. Then one day he walked in and said ‘our team’ is doing well. He was actually referring to Arsenal, who I support! He had switched allegiances to the Gunners.When Hollywoodbets started sponsoring Brentford, Kyle would be supporting them too!”

She told us how much her son loved his golf, and would enjoy a regular fourball every Tuesday – his off day.

Hollywoodbets’ Patrick Bradley, who worked very closely with Kyle, told the Sporting Post that he was ‘an absolute gentleman’.

“He was adored by our whole racing team. It has been a privilege to have had him in my life for the past 10 years as both a friend and a colleague,” added the veteran odds-maker.

Hollywoodbets’ Devin Heffer said that Kyle Johnston was a much-loved friend, colleague and loyal staffmember of the Purple Team for over ten years.

“Kyle was a vital cog of the Hollywoodbets horse racing team, as he managed the book as well as many of Hollywood’s clients with aplomb. He got on with everyone, and was well liked by all. Kyle will be sorely missed and I extend my sympathies and condolences to his family and friends at this very sad time.”

Kyle Johnston – loved his horses

Kyle is survived by his Mom Robin Johnston, his sister Tammany Gooding, Brother-in-law Philip Gooding, his nephew Cameron Gooding and his long-time partner, Yavini Pillay.

The Gooding family travelled from the USA to attend a memorial service held in Kyle’s honour at Hollywoodbets Greyville in the Classic Room on Thursday 11 July.

The family requested that attendees dress casually and colourfully. If you would like to share your memories of Kyle please email [email protected].

RIP Kyle. You will be missed, champ.

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