• Thu
  • Apr 17, 2014
  • Updated: 9:45am

Purton succumbs to health and Whyte magic

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 July, 2013, 11:58pm

Zac Purton wears his heart, not so much on his sleeve as dangling from his forehead - not only in the emotional triumph of a win but in the personal discomfort of hospital visits in late June for a kidney stone problem, that were shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Douglas Whyte wears his heart ... well, rivals would suggest an ECG on him an hour wasted, a search for the Loch Ness monster. Yet, every now and then, the sequestered slave army of Whyte's combative hunger finds its voice in a rush of passion even he can't repress.

That was the recipe for a season-long clash featuring finish-line screeching in October, escalating to animated finger pointing by December and threatening to spill into a cage match when the term ended and each rider spoke his mind.

The general view was that Purton rode better, but for reasons of being heavier, less savvy or less well-connected, he was unable to topple Whyte. Still, Whyte suffers from familiarity - the freshness is long off him and his very longevity has observers nit-picking.

Is 13 successive titles a world record? Britain's jumps genius Tony McCoy has 18 straight wins, but absolute dominance on the flat has rarely extended beyond six or eight in a row, anywhere. Fred Archer in the 19th century was the last Briton to win 13 flat titles on end - he may have won more but for shooting himself, but Whyte wins on a countback. Sir Gordon Richards won 26 British titles in 29 years, with 12 his best unbeaten streak.

And the Durban Demon pushed his own boundaries - six wins in a day, one run of 30 wins from 100 rides and his third Derby in four years among three Group Ones.

In 2010, when Brett Prebble's six-win feast shot him nine clear with few days left, Whyte's reply was successive four-timers. His responses as Purton got close later in the season were equally strong: 6-0 on April 7, and successive 3-0 scores in June before Purton's health ensured it was over.

The job gets no easier - Purton's still unlikely to get much support from John Moore or Tony Cruz or any from John Size, while Dennis Yip Chor-hong, for whom he rode 25 winners, has to back up from winning the championship. But Purton could hardly be disappointed after 88 wins, four Group Ones, Japan's World Super Jockey Series and beaten a whisker in the local equivalent.

Matthew Chadwick continues to progress and had himself to blame for any regrets - he lost 16 of the 83 meetings in careless-riding bans, paid HK$320,000 in fines and was involved in an incident with a bus driver that was more embarrassing than damaging.

Tim Clark's support wilted mid-season and he was swapped with Sydney jockey Tommy Berry, who won the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup on day one and carried on to 22 victories in the best short stint since Olivier Doleuze rode 26 in three months a decade ago.

South African lightweight Richard Fourie also went well in his first appearance but, like Berry, left with dreams at home in mind rather than a quick return.

The new jockeys will be another lightweight South African, Karis Teetan, heavy Italian Nicola Pinna and Ireland's Colm O'Donoghue - hardly encouraged by the struggle of Frankel's jockey, Tom Queally, this term.

Keith Yeung Ming-lun and Gerald Mosse suffered fractures in solo falls, but the first multiple pile-up in a decade saw five riders come off at Happy Valley last month, Howard Cheng Yue-tin emerging with a broken arm.



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