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Zac Purton ready to renew battle as he eyes fifth Hong Kong title

Sat 5 Sep 2020

Zac Purton is looking forward to getting back in the saddle at Sha Tin and launching his bid to be crowned champion jockey in Hong Kong for a fifth time.

Having claimed a fourth title last season, the 37-year-old will attempt to maintain his position at the top when the new campaign begins on Sunday with a 10-race card at the Group One track.

Although there will be additional pressure on Purton, who ended last season with 147 winners to his name, he remains confident he can handle expectations.

He said: “I’m looking forward  to racing coming back. I’m back on the diet, and doing all the necessary exercise, and I’ve been doing barrier trials.

“To be fair, my book of rides on Sunday is not that great – but I can’t wait to get back. It will just be good being back out there and getting rolling again.

“Of course I want to try and protect my position as champion jockey. But I know I have a target on my back – and I know everyone is coming for me – however, I’ve been in the position before.”

In recent seasons, the title has been a straight battle between Purton and three-time champion Joao Moreira, but the father-of-two expects this year’s contest to be a more open affair.

He added: “Karis Teetan had a good season, and Vincent Ho did well – while Chad Schofield is starting to make inroads, and Alexis Badel is another to consider.

“It is certainly not just a two-horse race, but a lot will depend on who gets the support and acts on it at the right times.

“It is going to be competitive, as it always should be.”

Purton has made the most of his short break, re-charging his batteries and spending more time with his family – as well as trying his hand at a new sport.

He added: “The world is a bit different at the moment, but I’ve had a better time off than I thought I would.

“I had a few goes at wakesurfing – I’ve got a long way to be a professional, but it was nice to be out on the sea.

“I did a bit of hiking – and a few owners have been kind enough to let us use their boats, so it was good spending time with the family.”

With able ally John Moore calling time on his training career in Hong Kong at the end of the last campaign, Purton hopes to develop a link with the returning David Hayes over the coming months – as well as strengthening other partnerships he already has in place.

He added: “David Hayes is obviously the one I’m hoping can fill the void left by John Moore. He has got a lot of young horses and will therefore not really get going for a couple of months.

“Whether he wants to put me on his horses or use someone else is up to him, but he has given me an indication he wants to put me on them.

“Danny Shum normally starts well – while David Hall and Paul O’Sullivan have nice stables that will have early runners.

“Hopefully I will also have the continued support of Frankie Lor and Caspar Fownes to keep me going.”

While Purton will have established Group One performers Beauty Generation and Exultant to call up once again, he hopes to find some new blood as the season progresses.

He added: “Beauty Generation is still out there and is now with David Hayes. I think he showed again at the end of last season that he has got that bit of spark still in him. Changing stables might just keep his mind fresh.

“Exultant has done great out there the last couple of seasons and hopefully will do again.

“I’m on the look-out for some younger horses to go with them – in particular a sprinter, a mile-and-a-quarter horse and one for the Derby. Hopefully I’m lucky enough to find such horses.”

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