Racing

Purton takes title and Hong Kong celebrates

International Jockeys Championshop 2017 sees popular rider snare two wins in the series

Zac Purton, representing Hong Kong, claimed the Longines International Jockeys Championship title for the first time and at the fifth time of asking, courtesy of two wins in the first and third legs of the series.

In doing so, he saw off the spirited challenge of UK representative Silvestre de Sousa, with French champion Pierre-Charles Boudot, who took the fourth leg, taking third spot on the podium.

This was a popular local victory - of sorts - for Purton, who has a large fan base among Hong Kong racing fans. He has been riding here since 2007, was champion jockey in the 2013/2014 season and has more than 750 victories in his Hong Kong career to date.

However, he was ranked among the outsiders in Jockey Challenge betting and was at one point rated a 25/1 chance for victory, well behind favourites Ryan Moore, Boudot and reigning champion Hugh Bowman.

A fireworks display had barely closed when Purton lit one of his own by driving home Our Hero to take out the first leg of the Championship for trainer Danny Shum.

Settled in mid-division, Purton produced Our Hero with a telling run in the stretch to hold off Silvestre de Sousa and See Me Now by a short-head, with Moore on the Richard Gibson-trained Forever Posh taking third spot a further neck away.

However, Purton's lead in the Championship was short-lived as de Sousa made virtually all in the second leg to drive home the Caspar Fownes-trained Peace Combination by a diminishing length. Defending champion Bowman was second aboard Dr Proactive, with Boudot hitting the scoreboard and grabbing four points for his third-place finish on Exceptional Desire.

Thus at the halfway stage, de Sousa led on 18 points from Purton on 12 points, with Bowman in third on six points. Moore and Boudot sat in equal fourth on four points.

Purton's response to de Sousa's lead was emphatic in the third leg, as he drove the Peter Ho-trained Let's Take It Easy - drawn wide - in gate 10 to take the race from Bowman aboard Sparkling Sword, with Leandro Henrique on Destin back in third, scoring his first points of the evening.

His second winner in the Championship took Purton to 24 points, ahead of de Sousa on 18 points, with defending champion Bowman back in third on 12 points, thanks to his two second-place finishes. Only de Sousa could deny Purton the crown.

In any event, neither jockey featured in the finish of the fourth leg as Boudot drove home the John Size-trained Bank On Red.

Later, Purton said: "I came into the meeting thinking that I had quite ordinary rides, but it turned out well, and I'm pleased to have won, as I've gone close a couple of times." - HKJC

HORSE RACING