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What many are wondering is what, where and when was the turning point that had Zac Purton go from being a good jockey to a global trotting superstar rider taking all before him whenever the opportunities have presented themselves.

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Before coming to Hong Kong in 2007, Zac Purton was a work in progress- a young jockey with enormous untapped potential, who, said those who claimed to know, someone who had more time for riding the surf than riding horses.

Speak to Purton about this supposed rabid passion to ride the waves- and, apparently with “good mate” Damien Oliver-and he’ll laugh.

“I was never a surfer as I hate being cold, so I’m not sure why this one keeps popping up,” he says in that matter-of-fact voice that one has by now come to expect. It’s all water off a duck’s back to a bloke who is so nonchalant, it might come across as arrogance.

Thinking back and even thinking about today, the stories- the rumours, the gossip, the innuendos- one hears from those with even a very peripheral part to play with racing in Australia is quite extraordinary.

The expression, “Get A Life” clangs through one’s brain like Quasimodo ringing those bells when hearing “the mail” where the postman doesn’t only always rings twice. The poor bugger is busy 24/7 delivering “mail”.

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As for Zac Purton, a key moment in creating the new, improved Zac Attack model came when he won the 2012 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on the gutsy little Danny Shum-trained galloper Little Bridge.

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As he says, “Having ridden him from his first start to being able to win at Royal Ascot was a special moment. He has been my favorite horse in Hong Kong.”

That win and the importance of the occasion was probably the impetus and confidence boost- and Purton, today, certainly doesn’t lack confidence- that he needed. Or, maybe it was the break and inspiration to realise that potential is one thing. Realising this potential is something else and thus started a gifted young rider growing up fast.

As with everyone, growing up means making mistakes as learning curves are never up and down and straight forward.

All the time, it’s about improving one’s self- and, as a jockey based in Hong Kong, this needs to happen both on and off the track.

To reach where he is today on the track, Zac Purton has spent the last three seasons working harder and harder, improving those god-given talents and forming strong, loyal associations.

Caspar Fownes, for example, used him sparingly as, initially, luck seemed to desert the pair. But then, suddenly, things clicked into place. The chair must have been turned around to face the north or he might have shaved his head, but the fung shui was good. And when Brett Prebble, who was almost his stable jockey, was late returning to Hong Kong for the 2013-2014 season, Fownes turned to Purton, the winners came thick and fast and a mutual admiration society was formed.

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Speaking about their partnership, Purton makes no bones about his appreciation of it: “Getting the extra support from Cas, and both of us being able to win our titles together last year was a great end to an exciting season.”

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Ironically, he might not have had, or still have, the support of fellow Aussies John Size, David Hall and John Moore, but, apart from Fownes, Purton forged a strong partnership with the powerful Dennis Yip stable, the trainer having once thrown his support behind Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble.

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Purton was a key factor in the local trainer winning his first championship in the 2012-2013 season. Yip reciprocated by backing him with winning rides which helped him take out his first Jockey Premiership last season.

“Dennis was the first major stable to give me support,” he says. “It came along at the right time, and he’s been a good support system for me ever since. I was thrilled when he won the trainers championship.”

At that time, when speaking to Dennis Yip, he mentioned how he and the jockey knew each other so well that often there was no need to speak, and how it was all about trust and team work.

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In Hong Kong, it’s often off-the-track where the men are separated from the boys, and here, Purton has shifted gears and grown up.

In a city of big spending Chinese owners who entertain their business associates in five-star hotels and the most exclusive clubs and restaurants in town, image is almost everything where style and good personal skills are expected from those jockeys who have reached that exclusive rock star status.

It’s called being a Class Act and something Douglas Whyte probably put into motion and which ensured him ruling the roost for thirteen magnificent years and continuing his legendary status through communication skills par excellence.

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Here, the supposed former “surfie” in Zac Purton has watched, absorbed, and smartened up understanding the importance in how one presents themselves.

It’s not being superficial. It’s just how every business in Hong Kong rolls. And horse racing in Hong Kong is very big business and part of the city’s lifestyle and DNA.

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After his win on Saturday aboard the Japanese owned and trained Admire Rakti in the Caulfield Cup, the Australian-born Purton mentioned to the racing media that all his opportunities have come from his Asian connections- and not from those in his homeland.

It’s hardly surprising. It’s all part of the paradigm and power shift running through the global racing world.

Caulfield Cup Day

Whereas the big British stables are owned and controlled by Middle Eastern “sheikh your money makers”, the new wave of cash-rich horse owners are Chinese- Mainland Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese and Singaporean Chinese- owners making their presence felt in the Australian racing industry at every major horse sale, and as witnessed by the purchases of Lindsay Park and Eliza Park by Pan Sutong and Sun Racing International, respectively, whereas what happens in Japan usually stays in Japan.

Apart from their yakatori results when tackling the Arc, whenever The Land Of The Rising Sun sends their equine troops to foreign soil, it’s usually, Sayonara to everyone else.

Is Admiral Rakti, a champion stayer? After its win on Saturday, outside of Japan, yes. In the Japan Cup- its main target- it probably wouldn’t even be in the top fifteen, all of which underlines the depth and quality of Japan’s equine talent in probably THE most passionate racing market in the world.

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Purton, who has quickly built up a good relationship with the country’s most powerful owners including the Yoshida racing dynasty, represents Hong Kong in their Super Jockey Series at the end of November and then rides in the Japan Derby, is well aware of the might and power of the Japanese racing industry and what even playing a cameo role in it can mean to a jockey’s career.

“Their horses are world class,” he explains, “and have to be respected whenever they travel. Riding any of these in one of their rare excursions outside of Japan means you’re on something special.”

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Zac Purton has added some strong, loyal supporters from the region to his bow- the Raffles Thoroughbred Racing Syndicate that owns and races Sacred Falls on which he has won the Doncaster Handicap and the George Main Stakes, the powerful Japanese connections behind Admire Rakti, plus the support of Hong Kong owners and trainers including a new association with an exciting galloper in the Tony Millard-trained Divine Calling.

Says Purton: “In my time here, I haven’t seen a horse win like that at their first start off the rating he was on. He’s an exciting prospect.” Understatement alert.

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Zac Purton, Douglas Whyte and Joao Moreira don’t need to go anywhere with a begging bowl looking for rides just to participate in a Cup race.

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From their home base in Hong Kong, they are in a position to pick and choose the offers that come their way- why bother showing up to ride no-hopers?- knowing full-well that their priority is riding in Hong Kong where the HKJC runs a very tight, efficient ship.

Brett Prebble let this opportunity slip last year to ride for a longer period of time in Australia. By the time he returned, he had lost the support base he once had here- and, ironically, there- despite winning the Melbourne Cup.

As in any business, people have short memories and one is only as their last hit- or winner.

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Where to now for Zac Purton aka The Zac Attack?

At 31 and, recently, a father for the first time, he is in a position to build from a very strong base- a base that’s only a starting point and where he can control his own destiny.

To say that he hasn’t even begun to move the career chess pieces along is something quite extraordinary to absorb.

But, then again, it’s been an incredible journey for a rare riding talent- a successful global riding talent who has accomplished much in a very short period of time with the Yellow Brick Road ahead of this wizard from Oz.

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Could there be the day when he rides a Japanese runner in the Arc- and finally wins this one major race that has eluded the country? Why not?

After all, for Zac Purton, it’s all about going where no one’s gone before.

It’s about seizing the day and seizing all the right opportunities.

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