Zac Purton riding high in Hong Kong

6 December 2022 Written by Patrick Bartley

Superstar Australian jockey Zac Purton has made more than a name for himself overseas, and is now the fastest jockey in Hong Kong racing history to reach 50 winners in a season, doing it in 184 rides. The five-time Hong Kong Champion Jockey is also chasing a record fourth International Jockeys Championship crown, having won the event in 2017, 2020 and 2021.

Champion Australian jockey Zac Purton arrived in Sha Tin as a raw young talent in 2007. He endured some difficult times early on, as he sought to make his mark in a tough arena, then dominated by South African Douglas Whyte and international stars like Brett Prebble, Felix Coetzee, Darren Beadman, Gérald Mossé, Olivier Doleuze, Glen Boss, Eric Saint-Martin and Christophe Soumillon.

Zac Purton riding Whizz Kid wins Po Yan Handicap Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong. (Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)

“It was incredibly difficult to get going here then. There were so many good jockeys and they were all in front of me when it came to getting rides,” he recalled. “The competition was tough then and it’s still tough.”

More than a decade later, he is pretty confident that he has earned his place at the top of the pile. He is now a celebrity in the Chinese region where horse racing is the number one spectator sport. His image appears on billboards and in ads all over the city, and he is hard-pressed to go anywhere without getting recognised. It is a far-cry from his humble beginnings in New South Wales. His career began with a local horse trainer, Trevor Hardy and within four years of his first race while still an apprentice, Purton had won the 2003 Brisbane jockeys’ premiership. He made his move to Asia not long after that, and hasn’t looked back.

The 39-year-old, who is married with two young children, continues to dominate, and may just well be the most successful Aussie import of all time if he takes out his fourth International Jockeys Championship.