Purton eager to prove his riding credentials in third season
In his third season, Australian jockey Zac Purton (pictured) has done the hardest of the hard yards to become part of the scenery, but he scoffs at any suggestion he has 'made it'.
Third in last season's championship and recently posting his first century of wins in Hong Kong, the 27-year-old was delighted last week when Luca Cumani placed him on standby to ride defending champion Presvis in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup had Ryan Moore been unable to fly in for today's race.
'He's one of the best trainers in the world and I took it as a great compliment that he thought of me - I was probably the only one hoping the whole volcano thing would keep going,' Purton said.
Moore's flight is due to land around the same time as the first race this afternoon, so it is still a tight fit and Purton's substitute role could still eventuate if there are any delays, but that he was asked at all shows the regard that the Australian has worked hard to earn.
'I feel things are going well, but there is still a lot of work to be done - you can never afford to drop the ball here,' Purton said. 'What I really need to go to the next level is the solid support of two or three yards. Paul O'Sullivan's been a great supporter this season, but a lot of my other rides I've tended to pick up just because Douglas Whyte or Brett Prebble have another mount.
'And the local stables like to support the Chinese riders if they can. I'll feel more comfortable if I have a couple more stables regularly coming to me first. Often, by the time they get to me, I'm not getting quality.'
Purton won his first Hong Kong Group One race when Fellowship took the Stewards' Cup in January and, Presvis or no Presvis, he is hoping to add his first international on the O'Sullivan-trained gelding in today's HK$12 million Champions Mile.
'It's probably a funny thing to say about a seven-year-old, but Fellowship has improved this season,' Purton said last week. 'He hasn't become stronger or faster, but he has learned to relax. He used to get revved up all the time, but he's handling things better now and he has had that little extra to give at the finish.'
That little extra was not enough to beat Happy Zero last time out, but the run confirmed Fellowship as being in the best form of his career, reeling off a sizzling final sectional to all but upset John Moore's sprint star after a great ride from Purton.
'Fellowship has been a terrific horse - without him, I haven't really had a shop window for the big races,' Purton said. 'Things have gone well with him - even when he hasn't won, he's been there in the finish, running placings behind the likes of Good Ba Ba or Happy Zero - so I hope people have seen that I'll do the job if they put me on these Group One horses.'