Lyle Hewitson (centre). Picture: GALLO IMAGES/YOLANDA SAAYMAN
Lyle Hewitson (centre). Picture: GALLO IMAGES/YOLANDA SAAYMAN

With the final field for the Vodacom Durban July due to be announced on Tuesday, the country’s champion jockey Lyle Hewitson has switched mounts for the behind-closed-doors race on July 25.

Hewitson, 22, was due to partner trainer Joe Soma’s talented three-year-old Got The Green Light, a 6-1 chance in latest betting, but will now partner Sean Tarry’s runner Shango.

A media release from Joe Soma racing stated: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Lyle Hewitson will not be able to honour his engagement to our champion in the July. He was originally secured to ride our horse while still riding in Japan.”

The man hoping to benefit from this late switch is Muzi Yeni, who has been confirmed as the pilot for Got The Green Light.

It is the latest episode in the rivalry in the sport between Hewitson and Yeni. They had a fierce battle for last season’s jockeys title with Hewitson coming out on top by four winners.

Like most jockeys, Yeni studies the form book and he will be aware that recent results suggest Got The Green Light should have the measure of Shango in SA’s most famous race.

The two three-year-olds have met in two important races this year — the SA Classic and Daily News 2000 — and Got The Green Light came out on top by three lengths on both occasions.

One factor in Shango's favour — cut from 40-1 to 28-1 in betting — is that he ran second in the 2,450m SA Derby to suggest stamina will not be an issue in the July.

The switch to Tarry’s runner is not a big surprise as the champion trainer has quickly given Hewitson the stable’s plum rides since his return from the Far East. He cut little ice in Hong Kong, but rode winners in his short stint in Japan.

Tarry has also booked a top rider for his other Durban July hope, Tierra Del Fuego, with Gavin Lerena in the saddle on the consistent son of Skitt Skizzle.

Tierra Del Fuego was trying 2,000m for the first time in the recent Champions Challenge at Turffontein and finished third — beaten five lengths — by the hot favourite Hawwaam. However, “Tierra” finished a length and a half behind second-placed Soqrat and will be 4kg better off with Mike de Kock’s Aussie import in the July.

It has been announced that this will be Soqrat’s final race as he will stand the next breeding season at Sandown Stud in the Western Cape.

Along with Queen’s Plate victor Vardy, there is the question whether the De Kock inmate will stay 2,200m, but his supporters will be encouraged that he finished a close second to Zilzaal in the 2,000m Summer Cup in November.

Saturday’s grade 3 Track & Ball Derby at Scottsville was billed as the last chance for borderline July candidates to make the final field of 18 runners, but the result will have had no effect on the big-race market.

Seven-year-old It’s My Turn, making his second appearance since winning the Gold Cup in 2018, did manage to finish second to the favourite, Marchingontogether, to suggest trainer Dean Kannemeyer might be eyeing a repeat win in the marathon race at the end of August.

Eyes Wide Open, a son of July winner Dynasty, never mounted a challenge at the Scottsville track and — even if the five-year-old makes the final field — the chance of him making the first four, which he did in 2019, looks remote.

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