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North of the border beckoned to Doug Hewitt

28 March 2024

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Doug Hewitt has made a big call; life-changing! But he’s comfortable he’s made the right decision for his young family.

Coming from a proud harness racing family, steeped in rich history in the western districts of New South Wales, Hewitt is the son of highly respected Bathurst-based horseman Bernie and Cath while his siblings Jason and Gemma are carving out their own successful careers within the industry.

Jason has recently taken the role of track foreman for the Bathurst Harness Racing Club while Gemma is a progressive young trainer/driver now based south of Brisbane.

Now, Doug is calling Queensland home.

Back in early January, Doug, 30, packed up his wife Casey (nee Owen) and daughter Tilly before deciding that life north of the border is the best place to raise his family.

“It was an agonising decision and one that was considered and reconsidered several times over before Casey and I decided to take the leap of faith and make the move. And here we are now. I still bleed blue, but home is now here in the Sunshine State,” a grinning Hewitt said.

The talented horseman has been his father’s right-hand-man for the past couple of years at their Georges Plains property after giving away the dream of playing rugby league for a living.

Doug Hewitt.

While highly skilled and richly talented as a footballer, Hewitt also had a deft touch with his equine friends and played a pivotal role in the stable’s success.

In recent years, the stable has enjoyed considerable success with the likes of Jewel Melody (11 wins, $487,000) and Ripp (10 wins, $287,000) among others.

Jewel Melody is five-time Group 1 winner while Ripp has claimed a pair of Group 1 features.

And with Ripp, Doug took both winning drives for his father.

“He’s an unbelievable talent; blessed with so much raw power and speed but badly injured as a two-year-old so to come back and do what he’s done is testament to his ability,” Hewitt said.

“When he won the Group 1 Gold Chalice at Bathurst, our home track, it was very cool yet very emotional at the same time because he’s raced by great friends and clients in Wayne and Julie Loader.

"That was my maiden Group 1 win but we came out and claimed the APG Final at Menangle two starts later.

“He’s a special horse in my heart for obvious reasons and it was difficult to leave him behind but I’m hopeful he finds his best form again. He’s a headstrong horse but wicked fast so it’s up to Bern now, if anyone can get him back, he’s the man.”

Doug has partnered with Ripp in every one of his 36 starts to date.

Doug Hewitt.

On average, the Hewitt family would normally be working a team of around 50 standardbreds at any given time, which includes plenty of youngsters, for whom they do their own breaking-in and education.

With Bernie closing in on 2000 career training victories, Doug has driven just shy of 300 winners himself, and those numbers have ballooned in recent seasons following full-time commitment to the stable.

Doug and Casey married in September 2022, at Burnham Grove Estate in Cawdor with Tilly arriving in June the following year.

Casey has driven 52 winners in her own right after making her debut during the 2014/15 season but hasn’t driven since 2022.

“Casey is originally from up this way and still has many friends and family nearby, this move was always in the back play, but it was me who controlled the timeline on when we would sell up back home and relocate,” Hewitt said.

“Naturally, it was tough conversation to have with Bern and Cath but ultimately, they understood because they went through the same process when leaving my grandparents’ farm at Crookwell before setting up in Bathurst.

“I enjoyed being foreman for Dad but it’s one of those situations - like when you’re trapped in the rat race - because it keeps building. The numbers, the hours and all the travel takes a toll, both mentally and physically.

“It all came down to life balance, so this why we decided to make the move. If it wasn’t now, I’m not sure if it would’ve ever have happened. It’s all about spending time with Tilly and watching her grow up.”

Casey Hewitt riding at Albion.

Finding the right property was another potential issue the couple faced.

It’s a competitive market.

But Casey went to work and sourced her local contacts, who compiled a list of potential properties, before deciding on Raintree Lodge at Plainland, in the Lockyer Valley Region.

The property was owned and set-up by the late Doug Massam and his wife, Bev.

“Brendan Sippel played an integral role in securing the place and it’s a fantastic, lovely big property with plenty of room while housing a 1000m track surrounded by plenty of yards and a big shed,” Hewitt said.

“We arrived with four horses and, obviously, there’s still more to come but we’re mindful of not going too big too soon. We’ll ease into it and see how things play out. I’m keen to do some breaking of younger stock for outside clients too.

“Bottom line, we’ve got plenty of learning to do with this property and our new way of life. I was somewhat institutionalised with the way we did things back home but now, it’s all different owing to the track, weather, feed, and racing.

“I’ve got to mention Gemma and Ben Battle for the help they’ve given us. They put the word out and I’m a bit overwhelmed by the support and contact I’ve received since being based up here.”

Now, it’s all about finding the right balance and making the right call.

And once they do, the Hewitts will be regulars in the winner’s circle.

Doug, Casey and Tilly Hewitt – Queenslander!