News » Zac Purton in quest for sixth Hong Kong Champion Jockey title by Leo Schlink

Zac Purton in quest for sixth Hong Kong Champion Jockey title by Leo Schlink

Zac Purton searches for a sixth title.

Bidding for a sixth Hong Kong jockeys’ championship, Zac Purton has conservatively outlined expectations for the 2022/23 season as the Australian prepares for Sunday’s (11 September) opening meeting at Sha Tin.

 

With 1,431 Hong Kong victories to his credit, Purton sits second behind only Douglas Whyte (1,813) on the list of Hong Kong’s all-time jockey wins and, after finishing the 2021/22 term with a title-clinching four-timer, he is cautiously hopeful of making good early progress.

 

“Every season is different. We have two new trainers (Pierre Ng and Jamie Richards) coming in, we’ve had one (Paul O’Sullivan) leave. The dynamics always change, everything is different – it just depends on the support you get from trainers and owners and hopefully I can ride a couple of winners early and start to get going but I’ve been here long enough to know how the system works and what to expect,” Purton said.

 

“Obviously, you always hope to be competitive in the (jockeys’) championship and you always look for horses for December in the (LONGINES Hong Kong) International Races and try to find a (BMW Hong Kong) Derby horse – the season generally flows quite well.

 

“I’m just looking forward to riding some winners and winning some big races. I’m going to need a bit of luck.”

 

With arch-rival and four-time champion Joao Moreira absent from first of 88 meetings as he recovers from injury, and with Silvestre de Sousa returning and Angus Chung debuting, Purton has nine rides on Sunday as he returns to competition after repeatedly overcoming serious obstacles last term.

 

“With all the adversity I had to overcome and the setbacks, I had to push myself through there,” Purton said, agreeing the 2021/2022 championship was his most satisfying after recovering from injuries suffered in a race accident.

 

“There were a couple of stages where I was very close to pulling the pin on the season and I just kept thinking that if I could get through one more meeting and then one more meeting – (and) I did that. I had to take a few mornings off trackwork, it was really hard to manage my body to be able to get to the races.

 

“So that aspect of it was really hard and then it was such a tight fight (for the championship) – to have that side of it as well – and it came down to the last day and fortunately for me I had a nice day, so that was good.

 

“It was certainly the hardest season I’ve had to go through. I’ve still got a couple of issues I’m ironing out but I’m here and we’ll see how we go.”

 

Purton, 39, will not have a ride in Sunday’s feature – the Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m) – but he hopes Sauvestre can successfully contend in the Class 2 Tai Mo Shan Handicap (1400m) for reigning champion trainer Frankie Lor.

 

“Sauvestre did a really good job last season, he’s very consistent. He raced well all the way to the end of last season and he seems to be in good shape again this season,” Purton said. “He trialled well and I worked him this morning (Friday, 9 September) and he seems more relaxed. That’s a good thing, but he always tries his best.

 

“I’d be looking for a nice tempo if we could get that.”

 

With 36 wins last season after a blistering start to the term, dual Hong Kong champion trainer David Hayes is optimistic he can improve on the tally this campaign.

 

Hayes on Sunday will saddle nine runners, including Birdsville (119lb) in the second section of the Class 4 Yi Tung Shan Handicap (1200m) under Purton.

 

“Birdsville’s problem has been that he’s been getting on the wrong leg, wanting to go the Melbourne way,” Hayes said. “He’s taken a while to adjust but, on his trials, and admittedly they were in a straight line, he looks like he’s finally adjusted to Hong Kong. I want to see him do it in a race but the trials suggest he’ll be competitive.”

 

Hayes takes the wraps off Wayfoong Legend, an unraced son of Cable Bay in the Class 4 Lin Fa Shan Handicap (1000m).

 

“His trial down the straight on the grass in Conghua was quite impressive and his trials on the dirt have been unimpressive. I’m hoping he’s not a dirt horse and I’m hoping he really likes the straight. He should be competitive in his turf trials,” Hayes said.

Luke Currie takes the mount.

 

Sunday’s (11 September) card starts with the Class 5 Mount Parker Handicap (1600m) at 1pm.

 

A total of HK$88 million in jackpots will be spread across the first two meetings – at Sha Tin on Sunday and at Happy Valley on Wednesday (14 September).