Chung Wah Spirit gives Purton 700th win
Australian rider now sits fourth in all-time jockey rankings in Hong Kong
It was a day of bat-raising and cap-doffing, in cricketing parlance, for Zac Purton at Sha Tin on Sunday, as the Australian rider brought up 700 Hong Kong victories with his win aboard CHUNG WAH SPIRIT in the featured Class 3 18 Districts Cup Handicap over 1,400m.
Purton, who first arrived in Hong Kong at the start of the 2007/08 season, has had a fruitful decade that included one jockey championship in 2013/14, as well as links with Group 1 winners like Ambitious Dragon, Aerovelocity, Beauty Only and Little Bridge.
He now sits fourth in the all-time jockey rankings in Hong Kong, behind Douglas Whyte (1757 wins), Tony Cruz (946) and Brett Prebble (783).
However, the 35-year-old says he still hopes to rise higher.
"It's been a long journey," Purton said.
"When I arrived here in September 2007, I struggled for support early on, I didn't know anyone and at the weight I was riding, it was hard to compete with the other boys. It took a long time to get some support and get going.
"It's been a lot of hard work over a lot of years. I'm pretty happy with the way things have gone and it is a nice milestone to get to, but there's still a long way to go - although I'll never catch Douglas, I don't think."
On Sunday, it was one of Purton's biggest supporters - trainer Dennis Yip - who gave him his 700th winner, with Chung Wah Spirit grinding to a half-length victory.
However, the rider feels that the horse is still immature and will continue to improve in the coming months.
"He's not there yet, but he's still only a three-year-old," Purton said of the Dash For Cash colt.
"He's got an engine, but he's been a bit timid and he hasn't been beginning well. Even in the mornings, he's just a long way from being the finished product. He really needs to be gelded and that's probably going to happen in the off-season."
Yip applied the blinkers to Chung Wah Spirit for the first time, with Purton indicating that they proved the difference.
"We put them on him in a jump-out recently and he flew out of the gates, they really switched him on," he said.
"So I came here today with a little bit of confidence thinking he was going to produce his best run yet and he did that."
Chung Wah Spirit provided Purton with his 88th winner of the season to complete a stellar weekend for the rider.
On Saturday, he rode a treble at Macau's Taipa racecourse, including the Macau Hong Kong Trophy (1,500m) aboard the Cruz-trained Romantic Touch. - HKJC