Zac Purton commits to another season in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s five-time champion jockey has put an end to speculation this season will be his last, citing increased freedoms and the lure of star sprinter Lucky Sweynesse as key factors in his decision to stay.

Zac Purton has forged a strong association with Hong Kong's dominant sprinter Lucky Sweynesse. (Photo by HKJC)

Michael Cox



A reinvigorated Zac Purton will continue to be based out of Sha Tin beyond this season and has his eyes on more overseas targets after the Hong Kong Jockey Club granted the five-time champion jockey more freedom to travel. 

Purton has a big lead for what will be a sixth title but his future beyond this season has been the centre of speculation for the past 12-months. 

In October last year, two months after outlasting Joao Moreira in an epic 2021-22 jockeys’ premiership chase that came down to the final meeting, Purton told Asian Racing Report “I won’t be riding in two years”, citing injuries and the mental grind of riding in the cutthroat jurisdiction. 

Then there were persistent rumours the Australian would move back to his homeland to ride, based out of Sydney, a narrative that gained even more momentum when the jockey won three Group 1s during the recent autumn carnival.


Zac Purton after winning the G1 Doncaster Mile aboard Mr Brightside. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Zac Purton boots home Communist in the G1 Randwick Guineas. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

On Monday the 40-year-old told the South China Morning Post that it was mostly an improvement in his physical well being that had convinced him to remain based in Hong Kong with his young family. 

“At the end of the day, it just came down to the discussions we had with the Jockey Club. Whether they were going to be more flexible than they had been, whether it was going to be easier to base myself in Australia,” Purton said.

Purton has pushed through pain caused by a litany of injuries including, most recently, fractures in his foot, as well as ongoing ailments like bulging discs and kidney stones. 

“Eighteen months ago I didn’t think i was going to go on,” Purton told Asian Racing Report. “Physically I am not perfect, but I can manage it.” 

Of the big race targets on Purton’s radar, the world’s richest turf race, the A$15 million Everest at Randwick in October is looming large. On Sunday Purton scored a runaway win on star four-year-old Lucky Sweynesse in the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize and Everest slot holders continue to court connections. 

Lucky Sweynesse storms to victory in the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize. (Photo by Yu Chun Christopher Wong/Getty Images)

“Lucky Sweynesse has continued to get better and better, and it is hard to walk away from a horse like him,” he said. “It isn’t just the travel, the prize money went up 8% here as well, plus there was a increase in major race prizemoney, and then there is the groundswell of support from owners and trainers; every single day I get messages asking me to stay, it makes you feel loved and wanted. 

“And then the meetings I had with clubs, providing me with options on what they could do if I stayed  … they may have realised they have been too restrictive in the past.” 

Purton’s options not only include fly-in, fly-out opportunities in Australia – including a much sought after Melbourne Cup – and the jockey is keen to gain rides in Japan or even Britain and Europe’s prestigious events like the Royal Ascot meeting and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. 

“We will have a lot of freedom to travel, which means riding in a Japan Cup, or Arc, is possible,” Purton said. “An Arc ride might seem unlikely, but this opens the door and gives the option when they become available.”

The retirement question still remains, and Purton – who has 125 wins so far this season – is currently just 275 wins behind Douglas Whyte’s all-time record of 1,813. That might be the lure that keeps Purton chasing, and pushing through the pain barrier, for a couple more seasons yet. 

“How long will I keep riding? I can’t answer and it will depend on how my body feels,” he said. “One day I will wake up and think I can’t do this anymore, but this new freedom has given me a lot to look forward to.” 




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