He’s come back from similarly precarious positions in the past but Zac Purton still maintains he is “too far off” to wrest this season’s jockeys’ premiership from arch-rival and long-time leader Joao Moreira.
Purton trailed Moreira by 15 winners in mid-April before storming home to win the 2017-18 premiership and was behind for much of last season before snaring his fourth title.
The Australian sits 14 winners behind the Magic Man with 18 meetings remaining in 2020-21, having sliced the margin back from 30 at the end of February, but he’s not getting carried away.
“It’s long odds, I’m running out of meetings and he’s still got a healthy lead so it’s his to lose. I’ll keep turning up and I’ll see what happens but I feel like I’m just too far off,” Purton said.
Purton has five winners to Moreira’s four in May but his progress has been hindered by a handful of near misses, with the 38-year-old amassing seven placings already this month including four seconds at Happy Valley last week.
He heads to this Wednesday night’s meeting with seven rides as the Jockey Club rolls out a rare mixed card under lights at Sha Tin.
In the first of the two turf races on the evening, Purton partners undefeated three-year-old Winner Method in the Class Three Grass Island Handicap (1,000m) as Danny Shum Chap-shing’s galloper looks to make it four from four.
“He’s had a great season, he’s done very well but he was a little bit flat last start even though he won. Danny backed off him, he freshened him up and he feels pretty good so he’s ready to go again,” Purton said of the son of Deep Field, who jumps from barrier five and will lump 132 pounds.
“He’s a big horse so he should be able to carry the weight but it’s never great when you have to carry it. I’ve got confidence in him, I think he can get the job done. Hopefully he can break cleanly, get in his rhythm and finish the race off.”
Purton admits he can’t ever remember riding in a turf race under lights at Sha Tin and it will be a first for Winner Method as well, whose three wins have come down the straight at day meetings.
“It’s a little bit different, obviously the lighting is different and there’s more shadows so it could have some impact but hopefully he’s OK,” the jockey said.
Also among Purton’s rides is Infinite Power in the Class Four Ninepin Group Handicap (1,200m) on the dirt, a horse he partnered into fourth last month in his first start after switching from Benno Yung Tin-pang to Frankie Lor Fu-chuen.
“He went well, he was a little bit stiff. Mid-race the horse in front of him was dropping back going nowhere and I had to pull out and make an early move and I think that took its toll towards the line,” Purton said.
“If he can get a little bit of a cleaner run in the race, he’s got no weight on his back and he’s racing well so he just needs that little bit of luck.”