Champion jockey Zac Purton is within reach of Joao Moreira’s 170-win season after the Australian put on a clinic with six victories at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The 36-year-old entered the 11-race meeting trailing Moreira’s 2016-17 record by 12 but now finds himself just six behind after the stunning performance.
With 20 races left in the season, Purton is in a race against time, needing seven winners to set a new benchmark in what has been a career-best season having already comfortably eclipsed the prize money and Group One record.
The brilliant six-timer takes Purton to 96 Sha Tin turf winners this season, putting him in a position at next week’s final meeting of to become the first jockey to ride 100 winners on the surface in a single season should he have another dominant performance.
While it is Purton’s fourth six-timer of the season, he said it came from left-field this time around.
“I came to the races thinking I didn’t have strong rides and was hoping to just get one, so I exceeded my expectation today and thankfully so,” he said.
If Purton was to reach Moreira’s 170-win mark, it would be remarkable, seeing as he has had 661 rides this season compared to Moreira’s 718 in 2016-17, due to his inability to ride at the minimum weight (120 pounds is Purton’s limit) like the Brazilian.
While still keen to play down his chances of surpassing the record, Purton said it was hard to escape the fact that he is again in reach after all but declaring it a bridge too far only a month ago.
“Everyone keeps reminding me about it [170 wins] so whether I am thinking about it or not, everyone else is,” he laughed.
“Of course everyone wants to start talking about that again but I don’t really have the quality of rides to be able to get to that mark. I am going to need a lot of luck to go my way.
“Whatever happens, happens – I have had a good season, I’m not going to be too disappointed if I don’t get there at the end of the season.
“Of course it would be nice to get there, but we will let it play itself out.”
Purton’s masterclass began in the Class Five Spirit Of Champions 1,200m Handicap when he booted home Paul O’Sullivan’s Wayfoong Charmer and then backed it up with a double for David Hall with Mr Genuine and Lucky Time.
He also managed to win on John Moore’s Magic Success and Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Coolceleb before capping it off with Marvelous World for Frankie Lor Fu-chuen.
Purton’s back-end of the season has been phenomenal, with 30 winners in the past 10 meetings and 10 winners in his last 17 rides, putting him on track to at least tie the record should he continue his red-hot form.
Meanwhile, Hall indicated Sunday’s Class Three Racing Heritage 1,200m Handicap winner Mr Genuine is set to be retired.
The 54-start veteran has been a consistent performer for Hall and is likely to bow out on a high note.
“I think he might be another one that is retired a winner, I think he might have done his job now, so that is good,” he said.
“He has been doing it a bit tough, he is a bit older, his legs aren’t what they used to be and the firm ground is testing for him.
“He doesn’t run on the dirt that often and when he has, he has off a much higher rating, he was beaten a length off [a 92 rating] and today he is back on 72 and he was comfortable and things went right.”