Zac Purton is determined to be fit for the first meeting of the new season on September 14, but the champion jockey faces a race against time after scans revealed he has a fractured heel.
Purton, who dethroned 13-time champion Douglas Whyte to claim his first title, aggravated an old left-heel injury during an off-season stint in Japan, cutting his contract short and returning to his native Australia for specialist treatment.
What was initially thought to be a flare-up of the decade-old injury revealed itself to be a left-heel fracture after an MRI scan on Wednesday.
"It's disappointing that it took this long to figure out what was wrong," Purton said from Sydney. "I had numerous CT scans and X-rays, but it wasn't until the MRI that the extent of the injury was revealed.
"I wish I had found out sooner. I was walking around Osaka on it and rode as well. But at least now I can rest and let it get better before the start of the season."
The 31-year-old, who notched six wins in Japan on top of his 112-win haul in Hong Kong last season, will not require surgery but is expected to take four to six weeks to recover from the injury, moving him perilously close to the start of next season.
But he is confident he will be ready to launch his title defence at Sha Tin on September 14.
"There's still time for it to get better. I'm just going to put my feet up here in Sydney and I'll be back ready for mid-September."
It continues an eventful off season among the riding ranks, with Purton's arch-rival Joao Moreira having an emergency appendectomy in Qatar on his way home to Brazil.