Despite riding in tremendous form, newly crowned Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton has aborted his off-season stint in Japan after aggravating a heel injury and was flying home to Australia on Sunday night to seek specialist treatment.
Purton had won two of the three races he had contested at Chukyo Racecourse in Nagoya yesterday when a left heel injury that had flared up at the previous weekend's meetings became too painful to continue riding.
Watch: Zac Purton on becoming Hong Kong's top horse racing jockey
"It's disappointing to have to pull out while I was riding so well," Purton said. "I had ridden six winners from about 20 rides over the two weekends I was here. I was looking forward to some great rides later in the day and during my stay."
"They only race on Saturday and Sunday here, so I thought nearly a week off would help it heal, I got through yesterday and I felt like I might be able to push through today, but it got to the point where I couldn't walk and that's when I felt like I should do something about this and not make it worse."
Purton had won consecutive races on Zeami and Chronicle Sky, but after finishing fourth on Mikki Seagull in the following event he declared himself unfit to continue and immediately after leaving the racecourse booked flights to Sydney.
The 31-year-old, who snapped Douglas Whyte's 13-season reign as champion in Hong Kong in 2013-14, and came up just two short of matching his rival's all-time record of 114 wins in a season, said the injury was a reoccurrence of a "cracked heel" he suffered in a fall at the Sunshine Coast more than a decade ago.
"After a long season where I really pushed it, maybe it was just a sign I needed rest," said Purton, who started his Japanese sojourn at Chukyo last Saturday with a double, and had intended to ride in Japan for six weeks.
Purton too expected to be fit and well for the start of the 2014-15 season at Sha Tin on September 14.
Meanwhile, an association with former Hong Kong star Darren Beadman helped jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun strike with just his second ride of an Australian "working holiday" when he rode a winner for the Sheikh Mohammed-owned Godolphin operation at Hawkesbury Racecourse near Sydney yesterday.
Leung is working for champion Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse during the off-season, but Beadman, now an assistant to Godolphin's head trainer John O'Shea, secured the 25-year-old a plum ride.
"I am very happy as this is the first time I have ridden for Sheikh Mohammed," Leung said after a polished display on Cabalistic. "I have to take this opportunity to give my thanks to Darren, who arranged for me to have the chance to work for Godolphin."