Though he’s someone I consider to be a friend, I missed watching Zac Purton on Sunday break the record set by the brilliant Joao Moreira of riding over 170 winners in a Hong Kong racing season.
At least for me, this was going to happen no matter what whereas I was completely engrossed watching an enthralling and amazing third cricket Test match from Headingley between England and Australia. It was the fourth day of a five day match and fans had been treated to some brilliant cricket- Herculean efforts this time around by a recalled Mitch Marsh and Mark Wood, Mitchell Starc, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes. Alex Carey, and someone who often flies under the radar in Travis Head. I might have been in Hong Kong, but I was worlds away from following the horse racing taking place at Shatin Racecourse. A few days earlier, someone had mentioned that the record breaking effort by Zac Purton was a “one man band” effort as here was a race rider in his own zone and with no one offering him any real competition. Maybe, but even a “one man band” is dependent on one special man, and the determined, focused and ambitious Australian was and is that special man. He can only beat the competition that he faces on the horses he and they ride- and as always competing with himself.
It was surprising to find out that Zac’s record breaking ride to eclipse the 170 wins of the Brazilian Magic Man was on a galloper that one would consider to not be one of the best from his book of rides- Magic Supreme. Still, Zac turned the galloper into a winner, Magic Supreme’s name is now etched forever in the annals of Hong Kong racing history, and, for once, Zac let his feelings known.
A question I have is whether this new record is eligible to be included in the Guinness Book Of World Records?
If so, surely it would give this feat greater relevance and importance and perhaps even reach those not in the racing game and which just might open new doors tra la la la la... The champion Australian rider will be back next season for, one guesses, more of the same- and looking at setting new records. Here’s where the Hong Kong Jockey Club needs to somehow up the excitement quotient. There’s a need to have the champion jockey of Hong Kong fight for whatever is thrown his way by having a formidable and charismatic foe- something close to the brilliant Zac and Joao Show.
Perhaps- just perhaps- Hong Kong can host an International Young Guns series featuring riders like Dylan Gibbons, Tyler Schiller, Jimmy Orman, Wiramu Pinn, below, etc and introduce this new generation of riders to local racing fans?
One cannot keep going to the old drowning pool and bringing back the usual suspects for more money than their worth.
Those days are long gone.
Speaking of which, though appreciating the candour of jockey Mickey Dee, who recently mentioned that he’s willing to return to ride in Hong Kong after the Melbourne Spring Carnival and how he made more money riding two Class 3 winners here than a Group 1 race in Australia, well, it doesn’t work like that anymore.
Hong Kong racing is not some retirement fund for foreigners looking to make a few quick millions out of the city before bailing.
Those smash and grab excursions ended along with Kai Tak airport.
What’s mentioned above, understanding the mood of owners who are not part of the usual racing families, and other extras that are more than giving away discount vouchers to the grassroots local racing fans and budget tourist groups from Mainland China are needed if the Club is going to hold onto its existing customer base. Then again, first, the city that is Hong Kong needs to find its way out of the fog... While watching Chris Woakes and Mark Wood at bat, a friend sent me a message from Taipei: “Back in the hotel and watched the last three Hong Kong races. Very boring. What’s happened?”. What’s happened are that times have changed. This is 2023 going on 2024. Priorities are different and those of us who were 23 years younger in 2000 are now twenty three years older. Instead of wondering where the time went, it’s about looking at what else there is left to do- and is relevant to Hong Kong- and interesting to an international audience. We’re all different from each other. Some are happy being where they are while others are looking forward to going down that rabbit hole with or without Alice and finally being the person they were perhaps meant to be. In the meantime, well done and congrats, Zac. Hope to see your name in the Guinness Book Of World Records. One more thing: Having invested fourteen years in the city, you’re now very much a Hong Kong Belonger. Make this work for you, bud. #zacpurton #HKracing #hongkong #winner #priorities #guinnessbookofworldrecords