Updated: Mar 7
It’s always been about timing. And karma. So when Australian Zac Purton returned to his home in Sydney late last week after a rollercoaster week in Hong Kong where the champion rider was hit with two separate fines totalling HK$200,000- chump change to him- for apparently breaking two of The Rules Of Racing, one just knew something of a game changing nature was going to happen.
Zac was probably singing, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” regarding his time in Hong Kong while planning the next career and life moves best for him and his family and doing the pluses and minuses of maths.
Those who know him might have been forced to jolt themselves out of being comfortably numb which can easily happen in Hong Kong and take an inventory of their own lives. I know that I did.
The two winners Zac rode at Randwick last Saturday afternoon- and out rode everyone else in those races in the process- was brilliant stuff.
Those rides took horse racing to an entirely new level, and at least to this observer, brought something back that I feel has been overtaken by more and more prize money being on offer- and which is of very little value to the rank and file racing fan with no vested interests in the horses running other than what’s known as “the punt”.
Missing too often these days is that elusive something known as on course excitement and entertainment, something which should change “personality” depending on whether at afternoon races or twilight meetings.
It’s something that maybe only understood by those who go racing as time spent watching the horses going around impacts their schedules for the day.
As for those two winners at Randwick, much of this had to do with what I refer to as The Tao Of Zac.
That win on Artorius to take out the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes was very probably the best ride this writer has seen anywhere in the world.
It was a lethal, accurate, focused and timely Zac Attack.
There was also the other Group 1 win- the Railway Stakes on the one-time Hong Kong based Trainer Michael Freedman’s galloper Communist. The irony of the name was not exactly lost on many.
Zac probably should have ridden a third winner if not for the sudden attack of the crazies that ensued in that race.
Hopefully, new Hong Kong Jockey Club Chief Racing Steward Marc van Gestel was watching the entire Zac Show, and making notes about what is a constantly changing landscape from the days of yore.
Those winners could have had the world’s best race rider laughing to himself and giving the Hong Kong Jockey Club and its all too often blinkered senior executives the finger.
But we should know by now that this is just not something Zac Purton would do. Never.
That day and those wins were also something karmic- a very telling sign that horse racing in 2023, despite the rather forgettable Asian Racing Conference held recently in Melbourne, is in need of huge change just like every other industry- and also like some of the other industries, not knowing how to, well, change.
What’s happening here in the Now is telling many who refuse to accept it that today’s 60 year old was a 30 year old and that was a very long and short thirty years ago.
The big question is what exactly one has achieved in this in-between time despite seeing that things are no longer what they were?
How many have bothered to look beyond a term like “Gen-Z”, and see that there’s an entirely new risk averse and very savvy thirty and fortysomething customer base led mainly by career ladies who want nothing to do with many things including horse racing?
Does one really have to spell it out, Kemo Sabay?
If in the plastic fantastic horse racing bubble with many feigning loyalty whereas if sitting at the top of the coconut tree lobbing the usual random grenades and having sycophants furiously shining shoes, what the hell does any of this mean?
What exactly is “power” these days, anyway, and what exactly does it buy that’s lasting?
Being Willy Wonka with Oompah Loompahs at one’s beck and call and having one’s own chocolate factory churning out yummy gummy bears?
As for the achievements of Zac Purton last Saturday, of course, these are not going to happen every day.
The point is that they did happen and things are not going to end at Randwick.
There will be the usual carrot dangling conversations, corporate caring and sharing, possibly a tango and a foxtrot and a warm cuddle while the peace pipe is passed around and face saving corporate communications strategies are worked out.
For those of us who wait for answers, and often see or hear or feel them in things that very possibly herald much-needed new things to come- and which happen in different ways- it’s often like that feeling when “Joliet” Jake Blues Brother saw the light.
We are suddenly struck by something missing in our lives: Honesty, Truth and Inspiration instead of more corporate bollocks
What Brother Zac has brought to the table of enlightenment, children, is a churning urn of funk, fury and sweet inspiration that goes way beyond what the creaky gambling and turnover driven horse racing landscape currently offers.
Are those in their thirties and forties and on the outside looking in the least bit interested in entering and being part of the horse racing game?
What’s there that’s exclusively for them?
Preach, Brother James.