Champion jockey-elect Zac Purton says this season’s title has been his hardest fought after the year-long battle with star rider Joao Moreira all but ended on Sunday after the Brazilian copped a suspension.
Purton, who will collect his fourth jockeys’ championship after the season finale on July 15, said season 2019-20 will be one of the most satisfying of his career due to the fact he has not enjoyed continued support from a red-hot stable throughout the term.
The Australian was disappointed to learn of Moreira’s suspension on Sunday which means he will ride at just one of the remaining three meetings of the season after also incurring a ban late last month.
“I have got a couple of free kicks on him, it is unfortunate that he is not going to be there for the last meeting,” said Purton, who holds a six-win margin over Moreira.
“Although I had a nice lead it was still going to be nice to go down to that last meeting and have the pressure which is enjoyable.
“Instead I have got a few rides for Francis Lui [Kin-wai] and he is under a bit of pressure himself so it will keep me focused.”
Purton has ridden no more than 17 winners for any trainer this term, spreading his bounty over 17 of the 22 trainers in Hong Kong.
John Moore, Dennis Yip Chor-hong, Danny Shum Chap-shing and Frankie Lor Fu-chuen have been his biggest supporters with 57 of his 141 wins.
“It probably feels like it has been the hardest-fought championship that I have had just through the fact that I haven’t had one stable behind me that has given me a real good push,” he said.
“I have had to fight for every opportunity I have been given and make the most of those opportunities.
“Every meeting has been tough and it feels very satisfying and rewarding so I’ll have a little bit of a freshen up and do it all again next season.”
Purton famously broke Douglas Whyte’s 13-year reign as champion jockey in 2013-14 to claim his first title and is satisfied to have secured another in challenging circumstances.
“Of course it is a relief that it has ended in my favour, there is a lot of hard work that goes into it, it can be quite stressful at times,” he said.
“There is no doubt it puts a certain amount of pressure on me every meeting and rightfully so, we both compete for the same rides and at the end of the day I was lucky to have the ball bounce my way, it could have easily gone his way.”
With Moreira suspended on Wednesday, Purton takes seven rides into the meeting at Happy Valley.
Included in those is the Tony Cruz-trained Golden Spectrum who has been banging on the door for his first victory in Hong Kong.
The four-year-old lines up in the Class Three Conduit Handicap (1,800m) where Purton says a drop back in trip will assist his chances.
“He is fit, he looks to have come into form now, the gate is nice enough so it is just a matter of whether he wants to go out there and get the job done,” he said.
Purton will also ride Diamond Brilliant, Total Power, Nextmodel, Happy Winner, Sprint Forward and Fearless Fire on the night.