Horse Racing
Zac Purton races to Hong Kong record, eclipses Joao Moreira’s mark

By Leo Schlink
09/07/2023 22:48

Zac Purton overtakes Joao Moreira’s record with Magic Supreme’s victory.
Zac Purton overtakes Joao Moreira’s record with Magic Supreme’s victory.

Zac Purton will continue his pursuit of Douglas Whyte’s towering Hong Kong career record for the most wins by a jockey after surpassing Joao Moreira’s mark for the most victories in a single season at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 July).

Further cementing his status among Hong Kong horseracing’s galaxy of stars, Purton eclipsed Moreira’s 2016/17 record of 170 wins from 710 rides with a quartet.

Purton drew level on 170 with his 689th ride with success on David Hall-trained Ka Ying Victory and then secured the outright record with his 171st win at his 693rd ride with Manfred Man-trained Magic Supreme’s victory in the Class 4 Arculli Trophy Handicap (1200m).

Purton crowned a landmark meeting in style by adding two more wins, striking with Hall’s Flying Mojito in the Class 4 Chow Silver Plate Handicap (1600m) and John Size’s Helios Express in the Class 3 Philip Chen Trophy Handicap (1200m) to boost his tally to 173.

Revealing he had ignored advice from a doctor regarding a foot issue at the start of the season, Purton finished the meeting with a total of 1,604 wins – a tally bettered only by 13-time champion jockey Whyte’s 1,813.

Magic Supreme holds on for Zac Purton.

At 40, Purton plans to continue his Hong Kong career indefinitely, fitness permitting.

“My body will tell me how far I can go. Obviously, I will come back next season and strive to ride as many winners as I can and as long as I continue to get the support, then obviously my position will remain here for as long as that takes,” he said.

“If we have another good season next season, I won’t be too far off that (Whyte mark.) It’s a little bit realistic (to break Whyte’s record) but at the end of the day, I’m getting a little bit older. It’s not as easy to get out of bed every day and I have listen to what my body tells me.”

Paying tribute to the owners, trainers and stable staff, Purton said: “It feels very satisfying. It’s been a long season. At the start of the season, I got told by a specialist I needed to put my foot in a moon boot for three months and I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on it – here I am, I didn’t follow that advice, obviously.

“I’ve worked hard and it hasn’t been smooth sailing all of the way. I sort of lost my focus through the mid-stage of the season with plenty of things that were going on. Once I cleared the fog and got my mind back onto the job, I was behind in the run chase there, I needed something to happen and fortunately for me, the ball started bouncing my way and it’s just continued to roll since.

“I appreciate all the support I get. The Club giving me the opportunity to come here, the owners and trainers who support me and also the people behind the scene – the mafoos, the track riders who prepare the horses and the people who give me the chance.

“It’s a team effort from everyone. I can stand up here and collect the accolades but I can’t do it without everyone else who plays their part…without their patience and support, I wouldn’t have been able to get to these numbers.”

In an incredible display of sustained dominance, Purton’s colossal season reached a peak with a seven-timer at Sha Tin on 9 October and has also included two quintets, eight four-timers and 18 trebles.

Francis Lui celebrates a quartet.
Francis Lui celebrates a quartet.

Francis Lui marched to a career-high of 64 winners in a season with a quartet of emerging talents – Sweet Briar in the Class 4 Chan Trophy Handicap (1200m) for Lyle Hewitson, Golden Samurai for Vincent Ho in the Class 4 Stevenson Cup Handicap (1400m), Call Me Dandy under Matthew Chadwick in the Class 3 Ip Jug Handicap (1200m) and Silver Sonic in the Class 3 Chairmen’s Day Handicap (1400m) for Harry Bentley.

Hong Kong International Sale graduate Call Me Dandy earned a ISG Bonus of HK$1 million, while Silver Sonic collected a HK$1 million PP Bonus.

“It’s a good day,” Lui said. “Some of them had good barriers and that made a difference. Hopefully there will be more wins before the end of the season.”

Alexis Badel notched his 200th Hong Kong victory when Adios (115lb) overwhelmed Frankie Lor stablemate Rewarding Together (121lb) and Courier Wonder (135lb) to land the Class 1 Swaine Cup Handicap (1200m).

“I’m so happy. It’s quite a surprise reaching 200 wins in Hong Kong – I didn’t really pay attention,” said the Frenchman, who landed the 2023 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on Voyage Bubble with a superb tactical ride.

“I thought I was miles away from 200 wins, but that’s pretty cool. I think that’s a great achievement – it’s very, very special. It’s always good to win a trophy race and Frankie has always been good to me since I arrived in Hong Kong and I’m grateful for his support.

“I’m constantly trying to improve and I’m very happy today.”

Alexis Badel brings up his 200th Hong Kong win.

Hall celebrated a treble with Ka Ying Victory, Lucky Missile and Flying Mojito, giving the Australian a career-best season of 42 wins.

Ka Ying Victory’s success in the Purves Quaich Plate (1200m) for Griffins provided the Australian with his 40th success of the season, matching his previous best set in 2007/08, before Lucky Missile’s triumph in Class 5 Wong Cup Handicap (1600m) pushed the Melbourne Cup-winning trainer into uncharted territory.

“Having 40 wins in a season is great, it’s always the number trainers want to get to – some can’t get there – so it’s good to finish off with more than 40. We had a bit of lull in the middle of the season, but we’ve finished off well,” Hall said before teaming up with Purton to land the Chow Silver Plate Handicap (1600m) with Flying Mojito after Alfred Chan and Caspar Fownes combined with 143/1 outsider Lucky Quality to clinch the second section of the Class 4 Li Cup Handicap (1200m).

Hong Kong racing continues on Wednesday night (12 July) with the final Happy Valley meeting of the season.