“ZAC PURTON IS HOPING THAT GAINING WEIGHT WILL HELP HIM PUSH FOR THE TITLE.”


If Zac Purton is to catch Joao Moreira and win his fifth jockeys' championship, he'll have to get everything right, and the star Australian is hoping that the impending increase in riding weights will help him.

Beginning with the Sha Tin meeting on June 25, Hong Kong's jockeys will have to make a decision when the weight scale raises two pounds, bringing the minimum weight to 115 pounds and the maximum weight to 135 pounds.

Some will take use of the move as intended, boosting the minimal weight they ride at to relieve pressure on their body, while others will see it as an opportunity to take advantage of new chances.

With 11 meetings remaining in the season, Purton's decision on how to approach the final three weeks of the campaign is simple.

"It provides everyone the option of riding two pounds heavier or riding the same weight and increasing their opportunities." Purton told the Post, "I think giving myself more opportunities is the way to go."

After suffering dehydration as a result of pushing himself to ride at 116 pounds on a particularly hot day lately, Moreira considered boosting his minimum riding weight.

Despite this, it appears he'll pursue the same approach as Purton in the last months of the season, seizing any opportunity he can, but his adversary is convinced he can still find an advantage.

"It will undoubtedly provide me with greater opportunities," Purton added. "For example, Rising From Ashes had a 63 rating [on Wednesday night] and Joao won."

"That's a horse I could have easily ridden, but I couldn't due to my weight, so it's a two-win swing."

"I'm just three behind him instead of five if I'm riding that horse." It might be a four-win swing if I only acquire two of those horses rated 63 or 64 by the end of the season, and the numbers soon pile up.

"It provides me a lot more options, and perhaps I'll be able to keep some of these horses as they progress through the grades."

It remains to be seen whether this will be enough for Purton to win his fifth championship and move one title ahead of Moreira.

While Purton is no stranger to overcoming a late-season disadvantage, having notably stormed back from a 15-point deficit in mid-April to win the 2017-18 premiership, he will have to do it while leaning on a body in urgent need of recuperation.

Purton's injuries from the tragic fall in December's Hong Kong Sprint continue to limit his performance, and he admits that managing his infirmities is more important to him than winning the championship.

"I'm more concerned about trying to get my body right at the moment, it's a struggle and that's my major focus," said Purton, who vowed to sit out the rest of the season if he didn't receive the medical attention he required in April.

"I'm in desperate need of a break. After my fall, I went through the healing process and thought things were looking up, but things have since gone bad again. But it is what it is, and all I can do now is attempt to make it to the end of the season."

With so much speculation about how long Purton – and, for that matter, Moreira – will stay in Hong Kong, the pull of a fifth, and maybe last, premiership will no doubt keep him going, and that is exactly what he needs.

The Zac and Joao program is an essential antidote to the monotony that accompanies the end of a Hong Kong racing season. Let's hoping it goes all the way to the end.


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