What more is there to say about everything Zac Purton accomplished this year for and in horse racing, plus, after fourteen years in the city, there’s his absolute commitment to Hong Kong that’s something pretty rare.
Let’s face it- Hong Kong has always been some place where almost anyone can become someone by talking their way into the right social circles and achieving quasi celebrity status overnight.
As someone who went to junior and secondary school out here after my family were forced to leave what was then called Ceylon, the use and misuse of Hong Kong is something I have seen over the decades and where there’s been a conga line of celebrity everything- chefs, hairdressers, interior designers, chanteuses, socialites, models...
How Zac Purton created his own brand is by being a results driven force of nature.
As a writer whose interest is interviewing those in the entertainment world, I don’t need to ask him what the Big Picture plan was and when everything fell into place, because this happened organically.
None of these things can be planned nor defined.
One thing leads to another, one learns from mistakes and these mistakes often help open doors of opportunity.
If you don’t walk through them and see what’s out there, someone else will. Zac didn’t wait to be asked...
My old friend Douglas Whyte did something similar at a different time in the history of Hong Kong, and it’s always interesting comparing the life journeys of two champion riders with the South African’s reign as the champion Hong Kong Jockey lasting thirteen consecutive years.
I remember exactly when that reign ended, where I was and how the baton was reluctantly passed on to the young upstart named Zac Purton.
It is what it was.
With the arrival in Hong Kong of the mercurial, charismatic and brilliant Joao Moreira, this gave Hong Kong racing a new marquee value show- an on-course competition every single race day between two of the best jockeys in the world.
What needs to always be remembered is that much of this rivalry and full tilt boogie competition happened during those lockdown years that affected everyone and every industry differently.
An example: Unable to tour and which is from where they make most of their money, the biggest artists in the world suddenly had nowhere to go and were forced to sell at least part of their music publishing in order to maintain their Rock style lifestyles.
We all had to cut corners, re-programme and rewire our thinking and exorcise our personal demons.
So did many in the racing fraternity, and with it taking its toll on everyone including the pressures placed on the Zac and Joao Show to always perform at their highest level for maximum impact.
Some might call it resilience. I prefer to look at this as mental agility, moral fibre, an inner toughness and constantly challenging one’s self and fighting the odds.
Both riders, married and with young families, have fought their own private battles, injuries and won what they needed to win in the public eye- and other wins that cannot be understood nor defined.
Frankly, after those pandemic years, anyone still around and functioning are damn lucky.
Meanwhile, though the Magic Man from Brazil had a somewhat criss-cross life journey which suited him, the Kid From Lismore saw his field of dreams in Happy Valley and Shatin.
Somewhere along the way, he decided to make them his own.
It had been quite a long way from the days when some owners didn’t want him on their horses because they “didn’t like his face” and Trainers did not wish to have Z.Purton on their horses.
Most of that changed because Zac changed and became a very good ambassador for Hong Kong racing.
Some used to say that he had a chip on his shoulder. I never saw it.
Whenever needing him to help promote the Happy Wednesday brand, he was always there for us, and wife Nicole was part of a very early series we produced called Finding Happy Wednesday.
These days, there’s a need to get past that velvet rope and a waiting queue to obtain the services of Zac Purton.
Unfortunately, he’s still only human and can’t ride every horse in a race.
This might upset some, but horse racing is a business and it’s always about looking after business- and numero uno. That’s not all.
After breaking a recent record, Zac made the time to thank all those who have helped him along the way- this year and always.
That was being a class act.
All the time, Zac has watched, listened and learned from everyone around him- trainers, other jockeys, owners and the business friends of owners.
He’s also most of all listened to himself and Nicole.
What’s next for Zac Purton?
That’s something only he can answer.
For myself, the important question is what’s next for Hong Kong?
The answer might have a marked bearing on what life journey Zac takes next with his family.
Those lockdown years have changed all of us and the world forever.
Finding next steps are tough, but not impossible.
Just look at everything Zac Purton has achieved- and will continue to achieve.
No one can begrudge all that has come his way.
It’s inspiring stuff in a world often short of inspiration.