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And then there’s Zac...

It’s not writer’s block, but some things, like the Longines Hong Kong International Races yesterday at Shatin, are almost impossible to put into words as it’s kinda like playing mental ping pong with one’s self.

Everything that has needed to be said about that horrific chain reaction of falls in the fifth race has been said. It involved three jockeys whom I regard as friends.

One can say how “that’s racing”, but there will always be those who disagree. Yes, it was a horrific fall and one of the worst many of us have seen in horse racing.

For some of the Hong Kong television stations to keep showing footage of this particular incident is, I guess, news, and like needing to look back at a traffic accident, something that “interests” the human psyche.

One can try and steer the narrative away to the fantastic and record breaking win of Hong Kong‘s Golden Sixty in the Hong Kong Mile and the team around him. But is this enough to please the non racing fan? Apparently not. Someone asked if Golden Sixty is a charm bracelet and whether I have one for her.

All through the day and during lunch and tea, the favourite topic of discussion was the fall. Bad news travels fast and furiously. Social media doesn’t help.

There was the fitting sayonara to horse racing from Japan’s Loves Only You, who was given a brilliant winning ride by Yuga Kawada before she enters the next phase of her career as a broodmare.

There was the fantastic winning ride of Matthew Chadwick on California Spangle. It’s good to have the old firm of Cruz and Chadwick back doing business.

There was the raw emotional outpouring to his wife from Joao Moreira after winning the Hong Kong Vase.

This was after he had thanked the Big Guy above, kissed the sky, thanked the turf, pounded his heart with his fist and sent virtual kisses and warm embraces to something like 17,000 people on course. Hey, he's Brazilian. They get a little excited.

Away from the on course action, there was every effort made by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to adhere to the government’s rules to keep its “racing bubble” intact so that this highlight of the racing calendar would be allowed to run.

To those outside of horse racing, however, it keeps coming back to the fall. It’s like listening to one of those racing and sports channels and Baby Shark’s “game plan” on constant Repeat.

There’s almost something biblical about this subject that often comes across like it has to do with someone having to serve penance and constantly repent.

While watching the races from Shatin on television and having been at Happy Valley Racecourse on Wednesday for the International Jockeys Competition, which had some of the best and most competitive race riding that I have ever seen, I felt that I needed to write about what a brilliant and world class act Australian Jockey Zac Purton is, and the role Hong Kong has played in his success story.

I had started writing about this remarkable journey of his on Sunday morning and everything was making perfect sense as the racing at Shatin unfolded. He had ridden the first three winners on the card and was sitting out the fourth race.

Then came down the spider, and what should have been the most successful International race day in Hong Kong took an abrupt turn.

What people think and say is beyond my powers of control. I am not Spider Man. My responsibility is only to myself and gawd knows that I have cocked that up a few times. I write because I have always been a writer, and most of the time, I write for myself.

If some enjoy what I write, fine. If others don’t, that’s fine, too. But, at least for me, writing is cathartic and therapeutic. The words that come out pretty much analyse themselves and often provide answers.

The piece I started writing about Zac is nothing I am going to get defensive about. Why should I?

I am not a “racing writer”. No one can tell me what to write. And I have interviewed and written extensively about everyone and everything from Arthur C Clarke and Quincy Jones to social media, creativity, the music industry, Billy Joel, Bowie, Dylan and Martin Scorsese. If anything, I am an observer of people and life.

The success and talent of Zac Purton goes beyond bubbles and yeah or neighs or press releases.

It’s a human interest story about an exceptional- and inspirational- athlete who I believe happens to ride race horses better than anyone else in the world. And he happens to live in Hong Kong, a city that’s resilient, yes, but very much bereft of inspiration.

As for the story I started writing about Zac on Sunday, maybe one day, I’ll finish it- but there’s a long wait before that happens.

Zac Purton still has much to achieve.

All photos by Wallace Wan (except Golden Sixty photo by Donald Lee)


We all know about that sickening fall today and thank God and everyone else that the boys are as well as they could be.

My heart goes out to the trainers, owners, stable staff and the horses. There’s nothing else I can say.

I SHALL, however, single out the “tipping service” that tagged my company and 3-4 others on Twitter to gloat about them having “tipped” the winner of that race and its “value”.

These grubs who are only about “the punt” should be loudly drummed out of the game.

They’re not only bad for racing, they’re just bad people.

I have blocked them and will definitely find out more about this company and who’s behind it.

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