By Hans Ebert

It’s become so regular that one takes it for granted- the trebles and quartets ridden by the lethal Zac Attack aka Zac Purton. And his nonchalance about it all adds to the feeling that it’s to be expected. No, nothing in life should be taken for granted.

Let’s not go over previously covered ground about all the hard work and sacrifices to get to where he is today and, surely, the best rider in the world right here and now.

As someone who enjoys going racing and with a passing interest in watching the races on television and streaming, what’s more interesting is how much someone like Zac has changed. He’s grown up. Those previous knee-jerk reactions are kept in check though those of his left field comments bring something quite rare in horse racing: a sense of cheeky humour.

Horse racing, which is often in its own bubble and thinks the rest of the world revolves around it, can do with a sense of humour, on and off the track.

Zac Purton today is not only a worthy champion jockey, which, if one was to be honest to themselves, was questioned when he finally ended the thirteen year reign of Douglas Whyte.

Whyte, the consummate professional who looked after his brand exceptionally well and still does today as he looks forward to challenging one-time great support system in John Size, John Moore and Frankie Lor as a trainer next season, and Zac Purton, this young “upstart” who had been focusing on the championship for years and a bit of a loose cannon? It must have given some at the HKJC sleepless nights.

Then- poof- flew in the magic man Joao Moreira who rewrote the Hong Kong racing history books for a number of seasons before deciding to try his luck riding permanently in Japan.

This didn’t work out for the extremely good rider and calculating PR man. There’s nothing wrong with looking after número uno as long as being número uno. But once that crown slips…

Riding in Japan doesn’t improve a jockey. If one is lucky enough to get on one of the country’s “idol” horses, and win one of the big races, great.

If not, it’s good for the curriculum vitae and might make for some fairly interesting interviews about Japanese racing fans, but Japan does not improve one as a rider. Hong Kong does, especially when it comes to being a leading jockey and looking at their role as a long term business plan.

Douglas Whyte figured this out years ago. It would be no surprise if Zac Purton hasn’t watched how Whyte went about his business, picked up pointers and created his own business plan and USP.

Riding in Hong Kong today is very different to when Douglas Whyte was champion. This is no sleight on my South African friend’s record breaking achievements. He would probably agree.

Today, the stakes are higher- financially and the tough job of remaining on top. It’s hard to explain unless living here, but like doing any other business in Hong Kong, succeeding in this highly competitive city is a full-time job. It’s about brand building and having that inner resolve to challenge one’s self.

In their own ways, Douglas Whyte and Zac Purton have their brands- but they know that only a fool rests on their laurels. It’s about fine-tuning and enhancing what they already have.

Call it superficial, but this is a city where it matters about where you’re seen, the company you’re with and the results of years of image building exercises and knowing the other opportunities to where these lead.

Why do you think Douglas Whyte is doing such a terrific job in marketing himself on Instagram under @canridehorses?

He knows where he’s going and Instagram helps him along his latest journey. @canridehorses is not full of happy snaps. There’s a business strategy in place.

Zac Purton is endorsing a brand of shoes according to HKJC rules and, no doubt looking at life after Twitter. He’s already become more selective in making appearances on the delivery platform. They’re more like cameo appearances.

This is what’s REALLY good for horse racing: the Marketing of the sport by those actually IN the sport.

Those corporate-type interviews? It’s part of the job. But once you’ve got to the top of the mountain, it’s never about looking down. It’s about creating another level. It’s showing there’s no ceiling, glass or concrete.

An A Team comprising Douglas Whyte and Zac Purton? Why not? Possibly a role for George Moore?

This team against the team of John Size and Joao Moreira?

The rabbit which John Moore might pull out of his hat during supposedly his last season as a trainer at the compulsory retirement age of 70?

The mantra that Chris Waller will be training in Hong Kong some time in 2020?

Could the incredible success of trainer Frankie Lor mean he will decide to have a stable jockey?

The dress rehearsal going on now before the new Hong Kong racing season promises to give The Game Of Thrones a run for its money.

#HKracing #ZacPurton #DouglasWhyte #HKJC #JoaoMoreira #JohnMoore #GeorgeMoore #FrankieLor #ChrisWaller #GameOfThrones