Purton savours 'a fantastic week'
Australian jockey Zac Purton kept on riding the wave of his biggest week in the sport with a treble at Sha Tin yesterday that took him to his highest season's win tally, which sat nicely next to his Royal Ascot win last Tuesday night.
'A fantastic end to what's been a fantastic week,' beamed Purton as he returned with the final two winners on the card for Dennis Yip Chor-hong - who also had a treble - to add to his victory on Africa Light for Little Bridge's trainer, Danny Shum Chap-shing, in race two.
Purton said Little Bridge's King's Stand Stakes victory was the highlight of his career so far, and something he admits he didn't fully appreciate even as he passed the winning post.
'Because I didn't have a ride for the rest of the day, I was just doing interview after interview once the presentation was over - I must have done 30 television interviews - and it took me ages to get back to the jockeys' room,' he said. 'I didn't realise how big a deal it was until then and it has been non-stop ever since with phone calls and texts. Amazing. I think I've got to the point now where people are thinking of me more when it comes to giving me a chance on these sorts of top horses in the bigger races, and I'm getting results, so hopefully that's going to spill over into the Group Ones next season.'
His week's achievements didn't end with Tuesday night, though, as Africa Light, Groovy and Winning Leader lifted Purton to 56 wins for the term and a fresh personal best, something he has done in each season here.
One of the keys to that in 2011-12 has been Purton's frequent linking with Yip, after hardly a ride for the yard in his four seasons prior.
The pair have combined 53 times this season for 11 wins, and Purton has proved to have the key to Groovy, who was notoriously slow to jump in his early races before Purton got on and won twice with the gelding in mid-season at Happy Valley.
'He had been starting to miss it again lately, so Dennis asked me to jump on and he jumped straight outside the leader,' Purton said. 'It was a bit of a surprise, I guess. He didn't have any form at Sha Tin but he'd been racing here back in the days when he was missing the start and overracing. He was very comfortable sitting outside a leader and I got a shock when I looked and saw that he was four lengths in front halfway up the straight.'
Yip said the key to Groovy's upset improvement had been in his demeanour, which in turn enabled the trainer to step him up to 1,600m for the first time.
'Ever since this horse came to me, all the jockeys said he felt like a miler, but he was never relaxed enough to put him out over that sort of distance,' Yip said. 'So I kept him to sprinting and waited for him to settle down. But lately, he has been a more relaxed horse, so I thought that it was time to try him at the mile.'
Winning Leader was the shortest of Purton's treble and the one he had most strongly anticipated.
'His two runs in shorter races have been good and I came here thinking he was one of my best rides going up to 1,400m,' Purton said. 'He travelled great, I was always following Mighty K and always confident that I'd be running him down too.'