Lismore-born jockey hopes to clinch Melbourne Cup win
CHAMPION jockey Zac Purton has come a long way from his days as a child running along the fence posts on race days at Casino.
The Lismore-born Purton has returned from Hong Kong to ride French horse Finche in the $7.3 million Melbourne Cup at Flemington today.
It is lightly raced in Australia having recently joined the Chris Waller stable with a first-up run finishing third in the 2400m Geelong Cup.
Purton rode Irish gelding Max Dynamite into third place last year, behind winner Rekindling.
"He (Finche) has gone a little bit under the radar and I think he is only going to get better with a few more runs," Purton said.
"I was a bit unlucky last year, If I got that horse a year earlier we probably could have won (the Melbourne Cup) but that's how it goes."
Purton spent his early years on the Northern Rivers at Mummulgum before his family moved to Mount Gambier and New Zealand before eventually settling at Coffs Harbour.
However, it was at Casino where the 35-year-old first realised his love of horses.
"I remember running up and down the fence posts at the Casino races and I always had an attraction to horses," Purton said.
"As a kid whenever I'd go to friends places the first thing I'd do was see if they had horses I could ride.
"I loved all sports but as a small kid it made sense for me to see how I would go as a jockey."
He started his apprenticeship at Coffs Harbour as a 14-year-old in 1997 and won the Brisbane jockeys' premiership in 2003.
He moved to Sydney where he made a name for himself among the top jockeys and has spent the last decade based in Hong Kong.
He is the current Hong Kong champion with a career best of 136 winners this past season.
Purton is due to fly straight back to Hong Kong tonight but would love nothing more than a maiden Melbourne Cup win to delay his flight.
"I'd definitely enjoy the win and I'm sure they would understand if I didn't make it back to race Wednesday," he said.
"They've always been really good to me (at Hong Kong) and it's not an easy place to be successful. My parents are still at Coffs Harbour and I'm lucky that I can come home and race in different countries."