Exactly a month after suffering multiple injuries in a Sha Tin fall, Zac Purton notched his 50th victory of the 2021/22 season as the champion hoop revived hopes of a fifth jockeys’ crown with a successful return at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Competing for the first time since 12 December, Purton had to wait until the last of his seven rides – on the final event on the card – before Francis Lui’s Cheerful Days gave the four-time Hong Kong champion his half-century milestone with victory in the Class 3 Lok Fu Handicap (1650m).
Sidelined for eight meetings with fractures in his right wrist, ribs and feet, Purton watched his 11-win lead over arch-rival Joao Moreira morph into a nine-win deficit but he clawed one victory back at the city circuit to trail the Brazilian 58-50.
“I feel good, I feel better than I thought I would,” Purton, 39, said. “Fitness-wise, I feel pretty good. Injury-wise, I feel pretty good. Once I got through that first race, I cleaned the wind out and I knew my wrist would hold up, so on we went.”
Asked to address his milestone on Wednesday, Purton observed it had materialised “probably a month slower than I would have liked, but we got there and hopefully there’s another 50-plus to come.”
Purton’s belated victory came as Lui, Ricky Yiu and Derek Leung celebrated doubles on a night when Harry Bentley and Vagner Borges cemented partnerships with Frankie Lor and John Size, respectively.
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- Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday 16 January.