David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Japan tops Zac Purton’s summer plans

Hong Kong’s soon-to-be six-time champion jockey is making arrangements to ride a summer spell in Japan for the first time in eight years.

Zac Purton is planning to ride a short stint on the JRA circuit for the first time since August 2015 as he aims to re-establish connections with the all-conquering Japanese bloc.

The Australian ace ended months of speculation about his future when he announced on Sunday that he would remain in Hong Kong next season, but before that campaign kicks off in September, he wants to re-engage with the Japanese scene.

“The plan is to ride in Japan for a couple of weeks this summer,” Hong Kong’s five-time champion jockey told Asian Racing Report. “I’ve had a lot of success in Japan and I’ve always enjoyed my time there.”

Purton’s record in Japan stands at 19 wins from 107 rides going back to June 2010 when he rode the Yasuda Kinen fixture at Tokyo. In November 2012 he won the World Super Jockeys Series, and in 2014 he enjoyed the first of two short summer stints.  

He was a regular visitor the following year: in March 2015 he famously partnered Aerovelocity to win the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen; then came a seven-win summer, followed by a one-day-one-win visit that December, tied to Hong Kong runner Gun Pit’s unsuccessful assault on the G1 Champions Cup.

But Purton’s only visit to Japan since then was a fly-in-fly-out to ride Beauty Only in the 2017 G1 Yasuda Kinen.


Zac Purton lifts Aerovelocity home for Hong Kong in the 2015 Takamatsunomiya Kinen. (Photo by JRA)

Zac Purton aboard Beauty Only ahead of the 2017 G1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

“The reason I haven’t been there the last few years is that we had young children so Nicole and I preferred that I was around the kids, especially during the off-season when we were travelling: it was important that we had that family time,” he said.

“Then Covid came along and I wasn’t able to go there for three years anyway, so it just dragged the timeline out. The kids now are at an age where they’ve grown up a little bit and we think it’s a good time to take them to Japan to experience the culture, let them see the racing there, and we can use it as a working holiday.”

Purton has had major wins with Japanese horses overseas – Admire Rakti in the Caulfield Cup and Normcore in the Hong Kong Cup – and after a positive experience on Sunday, riding the Mitsu Nakauchida-trained Prognosis to second in the G1 QEII Cup, the star rider is hoping his intended summer in Japan will result in further big-race wins for Japanese owners and trainers.

Zac Purton celebrates Admire Rakti's Caulfield Cup victory. (Photo by Getty)

Zac Purton pair's with Normcore to claim the G1 Hong Kong Cup of 2020. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

“It will enable me to rebuild some of the connections that I’ve had there previously,” he said “Maybe if a horse goes down to Melbourne for the Cup, perhaps I can pick up a ride there. The Japanese horses are dominating all around the world at the moment so it makes sense to be aligned with them to a certain degree.

“I rode Prognosis in the QEII and I’ve asked (connections) to bring the horse back in December for the Hong Kong Vase and we’ve had a conversation that if they did bring him back, I’d be willing to ride him again.”

Purton has informed the HKJC of his summer plan and has been in conversation with the JRA ahead of finalising dates and submitting the formal application.




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