Zac Purton has relinquished the title of Hong Kong’s champion jockey to Joao Moreira – a position he has held for the previous three seasons – but the competitive Australian believes he can snatch it back in 2021-22.
Despite falling behind the Brazilian in the battle for the premiership 152 winners to 123, the 38-year-old has still had a campaign that is the envy of all others, including victories in the Group One Hong Kong Cup aboard Normcore as well as the lucrative International Jockeys’ Championship.
As Purton approaches the final meeting of his season – he’s suspended for the last two fixtures – he remains optimistic the wheel can turn back in his favour.
All it takes is a slight drop off from Moreira’s biggest stables – Caspar Fownes and John Size have been fighting for the title – and an uptick in performance from his main trainers and Purton can envisage a scenario where he claims his fifth championship.
“It just comes down to the support, whether the stables are going to get behind me and give me that opportunity,” he said.
“Things can change quickly here. Caspar and Size both pushed for the championship this season so their horses are going to be a bit higher in the ratings and that’ll level things out a little bit as well.
“All in all, I can see things being a little bit better next season. Hopefully I’m right.
“Obviously Joao had the support this season and I had the support the season before.
“It’s just been one of those seasons – you throw in being injured and being sick and everything seems like it has gone wrong but when I look back and the amount of winners I’ve ridden, the big races I’ve won and the IJC as well, you can’t not be happy with the season.”
Instead of pushing for a fine after a careless riding charge last week, Purton opted to take the suspension in the hope that an extra week off can help his body recover and ensure he gets off to a fast start when the new term rolls around in September.
“I’ll have a freshen up, come back and you’ve just got to get the ball to bounce your way at the start and you get going,” he said.
“I’ve just got to be healthy and fit, injuries just make it so difficult. You can’t train properly, you don’t feel as good. I just need to get a bit of momentum – I had no momentum at the start of the season, I had no momentum through the middle of the season and it’s just the way things go sometimes. But that’s part and parcel of being an athlete in any sport, it doesn’t matter if it’s me or anyone else.”
Purton heads to the Valley on Wednesday night with a strong book of eight rides, including the Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained Hong Kong Bet, who finished second last start after dropping back to Class Three.
The sprinter stays in that grade for the Hawthorn Handicap (1,200m) and should get a lovely run from barrier two.
“His last run was very good – I thought we had the race. We were able to sneak into a nice spot from an awkward gate, saved a lot of ground and I was waiting for him to launch late. The leader is not known to be a strong horse inside the final 200m but for whatever reason last time he kept kicking and he made it hard for my bloke,” Purton said.
“He ran well, he’s got a good gate, he should get a good run again and he should be a good chance.”
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Everyone’s Delight relished the step up to the extended mile last time out, leading all the way, but he is likely to have a bit more competition for the front with Telecom Fighters also engaged.
Purton has options after landing the inside alley and is keeping an open mind about how to approach the Class Three Holly Handicap.
“I’ll just see what Frankie wants to do,” he said. “Obviously he was effective last time in front but he got to control the race at favourable sectionals so he’d need to do that again but the horse has obviously appreciated going up in distance and we’re starting to see the best of him now.”