Zac Purton breathed new life into the fight for the jockeys’ championship after he began the long chase-down of Joao Moreira with a fantastic five-timer at Happy Valley on Sunday.
Purton was going through a rare quiet spell heading into the meeting, winning just seven times in 56 rides since returning from a month out with injuries suffered in a fall in the Hong Kong Sprint.
“It’s nice to be riding a few winners again and hopefully things start to roll along a little bit more,” Purton said.
📺 Welcome to Happy Valley - you're watching the @zpurton show!— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 6, 2022
The Australian is in dazzling form with his third in a row, this time aboard Lightning Storm. 🔥 #HKracing pic.twitter.com/IUX7EF42cm
“I’ll just turn up – every meeting, every race – and try to give my horses their chances and hopefully they can get it done for me.”
Purton, who started the card 18 winners behind the Magic Man, has a free hit on closing the gap with Moreira ruled out of action for six meetings after not riding to the line on Zone D at a Valley fixture last month, but he feels there is a lot of ground to be covered before he can be considered a title challenger again.
“We’ve got a long way to go and I’ve got to build myself back to where I was before. I’ll just keep working at it,” he said.
There were some impressive performances among Purton’s five winners and the best was saved for last when Savvy Kingman beat a host of Hong Kong Derby entries when running away with the Class Three Mut Wah Handicap (1,800m).
Purton stacked the field behind him for most of the race and booted his mount clear turning into the straight to win by an easy-looking three lengths.
That came a couple of hours after Lightning Storm marked himself as a sprinter to follow when he blitzed his rivals to win the Class Four Tsun Yip Handicap (1,000m).
Content to track the speed put into the race by outsider Packing Champion, Purton was in the perfect position throughout and his mount showed a blistering turn of foot to beat the market leader Pretty Queen Prawn by three lengths.
Zac Purton discharged and Lyle Hewitson out of ICU
Before the meeting, Purton appeared to have a fine book of rides on the rare day meeting at Happy Valley and it didn’t take long for him to regain the winning thread as he took out the second race on the card, the Class Three Hoi Yuen Handicap (1,200m), on High Rise Soldier.
Purton, who was fortunate to pick up the ride on Francis Lui Kin-wai’s runner after jockey Luke Currie fractured his T7 vertebrae in a fall on Friday, was always well placed on High Rise Soldier and the gaps came at the right time for him to fight his way past top weight Decisive Twelve.
While he was forced to wait for the gaps for that win, Purton was at his proactive best aboard Viva Popcorn in the first section of the Class Four Yue Man Handicap (1,650m).
A superb mid-race move around the field in the back straight was rewarded when Viva Popcorn, who had been ridden by Moreira in his past three starts, gamely held off the late challenge of Eevee to win by half a length.
After just being denied by a short-head in race six, Purton then went one better on Toronado Phantom, who again impressed when winning the Class Three Hoi Yuen Handicap (1,200m).
Despite riding five winners, Purton came close to riding a few more with his five beaten mounts all finishing in the first three.
Purton filled the runner-up spot with Viva Hunter, Awesome Treasure and Voyage Warrior and finished third on Sight Hero and Presence to cement a terrific day at the office.