Star Hong Kong jockey Zac Purton will return home to Australia this weekend to ride in the Caulfield Cup after his mount, Red Verdon, gained a start in the race.
Purton, who won the Group One in 2014 aboard Japanese stayer Admire Rakti, secured the ride some time ago, but it was not clear whether the Hong Kong-owned stayer would gain a start.
With a host of withdrawals this week, the six-year-old comfortably made the field, where Purton will carry 54 kgs (119 pounds) over the 2,400m trip.
Should the Ed Dunlop-trained horse continue on to next month’s Melbourne Cup, Purton said he will retain the ride.
With Happy Valley racing on Thursday night instead of the regular Wednesday time slot, Purton will fly to Melbourne on Friday morning before returning overnight on Saturday to be back for Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting where he will ride Hong Kong’s top two-rated horses in Beauty Generation and Ivictory.
Purton said he was looking forward to making the trip to Melbourne to compete in one of Australian racing’s showcase events.
“He looks like he has handy form in the UK,” he said.
“Obviously it’s hard to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together with horses coming from different parts of the world and Caulfield can be a tricky track.
“Hopefully we can draw a nice gate and get a nice run and we will see how he goes.”
Red Verdon is owned by former Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli and races in the same colours as Red Cadeaux, who gained a cult following in Australia after managing to run second in the Melbourne Cup on three occasions over four years.
Doubt was originally raised as to whether Purton would be granted permission by the Jockey Club to ride in the A$5 million (HK$28 million) Group One after it fell well outside the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities World’s Top 100-ranked races, but the club agreed.
The Jockey Club imposed new restrictions on its riders competing overseas last year after a fall and a suspension abroad forced jockeys to miss Hong Kong meetings.
Purton last rode in Australia in Sydney in March where he was able to enjoy Group One success in The Galaxy on In Her Time.
He was also able to ride Max Dynamite to third place in last year’s Melbourne Cup.
The barrier draw for the Caulfield Cup will be conducted on Wednesday.