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Second Hong Kong Derby success

Six-times Hong Kong Champion Jockey Zac Purton rode another beautifully judged race to get the former Aidan O’Brien-trained Massive Sovereign home in last Sunday’s HK$26 million BMW Hong Kong Derby in front of 60 976 thrilled spectators at Sha Tin.

Champion Jockey Zac Purton notched his second BMW Hong Kong Derby (Pic – HKJC)

South African racing fans love the fast-paced Hong Kong racing action, and having representation, both equine and human, in the city that never sleeps, gives us all some skin in the game.

Besides patriotic support for our former dual champion Lyle Hewitson, who registered a superb double on Sunday, the faithful also follow Cape Town Met winning rider Luke Ferraris, and ‘Durban Demon’ Doug Whyte, as well as the inimitable Zac Purton, and ‘Mauritian Magician’ Karis Teetan.

All of the mentioned stars are firm favourites with the over 5000 players who again bid for glory in the exciting arena of the Hollywoodbets Punters’ Challenge on Sunday.

The Hollywoodbets Punters’ Challenge is a free-to-enter competition, and can be played on Hong Kong and Singapore fixtures, as well as on all of our local racemeetings.

Visit www.punters.hollywoodbets.net to find out more.

On Sunday, the 41-year-old Purton was winning his second Hong Kong Derby after Luger in 2015 and, interestingly, Massive Sovereign clocked the fastest time in modern Hong Kong Derby history – 1m 59,85s – since the race distance was changed to 2000m in 2000. He bettered champion Golden Sixty’s time of 2m 00.15s, set in 2020.

A son of No Nay Never, who coincidentally is also the sire of last Saturday’s Hollywoodbets Kenilworth winner The Abdicator, the Irish-bred Massive Sovereign won at Leopardstown for Aida O’Brien and is now unbeaten in two starts for trainer, Dennis Yip, who said that winning Sunday’s feature was ‘bigger than the championship’ for him!

Yip, who was champion trainer in Hong Kong in 2012/13, suggested a tilt at the Gr1 FWD QEII Cup next month for the former Irish stayer. Purton will no doubt have a few other choices, so it makes things interesting.

It’s fascinating to learn that Zac Purton actually sent Mr Yip the video of Massive Sovereign’s victory at Leopardstown and asked him for the ride.

Purton described securing the ride on Massive Sovereign – a No Nay Never gelding who won two of five starts for O’Brien – as the fruit of several ‘sliding doors’ moments.

“There are all those sliding doors moments in the season leading up to it. At one stage, I thought I was going to ride Ensued and the owner wanted Ryan (Moore), then I thought I would ride Helios (Express) and I was away when Hughy (Bowman) won on him and then I watched him win the first two legs (of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series),” Purton said.

“I didn’t really have a horse for the Derby until this bloke won so, like when I won on Luger, it was a late pick-up ride into the race. I feel extremely honoured and privileged to have found such a horse to win it. To win the race itself, it’s the most prestigious race in Hong Kong and I’ve had a frustrating run in this race and a frustrating season, so it’s nice to get another big one – and probably the biggest one among the local races overall.

Massive Sovereign under Purton edges out Galaxy Patch and Ka Ying Generation (Pic – HKJC)

“He’s shown us so far that he’s the ideal horse here in Hong Kong and he’s got such a good attitude. He just takes everything in his stride since he got here. I loved him in the mornings. But one can love a lot of horses in the morning, but they don’t turn up on race days – this guy has turned up on race day so far. I’m not sure how good he’s going to be, only time will tell but he’s done a good job so far,” he added.

Purton capped a treble on the day to take his win tally to 83 for the term – 27 ahead of Karis Teetan.

The Australian has amassed season stakes of HK$157 423 910. While it’s purely academic in the scheme of things, that equates to R378 million at current rates of exchange!

Purton started his career in Brisbane and was an apprentice sensation, winning the championship there in 2003. He then moved on to Sydney where he was twice second in the championship.

He arrived in Hong Kong 17 years ago and boasts a famous Royal Ascot win for Hong Kong aboard the Danny Shum-trained Little Bridge in the 2012 King’s Stand Stakes

Zac Purton ended our own Douglas Whyte’s 13-season dominance with his first Hong Kong jockeys’ championship in 2013/14 (112 wins) and in earning his second title in 2017/18 he halted Joao Moreira’s title streak at three.

During his first championship season, the Australian ace raced to what was then the fastest 50 in Hong Kong history and became the second rider, after Whyte, to notch 100 wins in a season.

Purton lost his title when second to Moreira in 2014/15 with 95 wins, a position he filled for the next two terms, including when notching his second century in 2016/17.

His second championship was a remarkable effort as he chased down Moreira to take the lead for the first time that term on June 10, 2018. Five weeks later, at season’s end, he had outpointed Moreira 136-134.

He took a third consecutive championship in 2019/20 with 147 wins and three Group 1’s, and his triumph aboard Exultant in the 2020 QEII Cup saw him become the only rider in history to have won every Group 1 race on the Hong Kong calendar.

Purton’s championship winning streak was stopped at three in 2020/21 but he soon reclaimed the title in 2021/22. He took his fifth title after another enthralling battle with Moreira, enjoying huge success with 136 wins, including his third Stewards’ Cup triumph, this time aboard the John Size-trained Waikuku. He also sealed a third International Jockeys’ Championship title.

Purton closed out a highly successful 2022/23 season, completing the campaign with 179 wins and a sixth Hong Kong Champion Jockey crown.

He also reached 1600 career wins in Hong Kong as of July 2023.

Through the same term he set a new single season earnings record of HK$277,712,060 and posted a personal-best seven wins at a single Hong Kong meeting on 9 October 2022.


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