Purton eyes cup glory
JUST having a chance of riding in the Melbourne Cup is a big deal, but to be onboard the pre-race favourite is in a completely different stratosphere.
It's that rarefied air that Coffs Coast product Zac Purton will be enjoying on Tuesday afternoon when the barriers open for the race that stops a nation.
Purton will be onboard Japanese stayer and Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti.
Being the top weight, Admire Rakti will have to set a new record for northern hemisphere horses to snare the famed three-handled trophy.
It's no impost for Purton though, who's wanted this opportunity for a long time.
At 31, his journey towards big Melbourne spring success has put many miles on the clock.
From moving to Brisbane to win the jockeys' premiership there, to stints in Sydney and Melbourne, before throwing himself into the deep end that is Hong Kong racing in 2007.
This season he became the first Australian to win the Hong Kong jockeys' championship since 1991.
While other Hong Kong jockeys were taking a season's end holiday, Purton said he went to Japan in the hope of securing a Melbourne Cup ride.
"That's why I went there - to specifically get a ride in the Melbourne Cup because I knew they were going to start coming back," Purton said.
"Obviously the timing worked out well, but it's not over yet, we've still got the big one to go hopefully."
Purton's proud parents Phil and Liz were trackside at Caulfield to watch their son's greatest triumph in the saddle and they've got their tickets booked for the Melbourne Cup.
Phil and Liz explained that Zac always wanted to be a jockey and when he turned 15 during one lot of school holidays he said he didn't want to return to school, where he was a reluctant student.
But before he got the apprenticeship, his parents would each morning before school drive him the 30km round trip to Trevor Hardy's Coffs Harbour stables where he mucked out boxes.
The journey from early morning starts in Coffs Harbour to being one of the world's leading jockeys is complete, but for Purton, a win on Tuesday would be icing on the cake.