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Purton returns for Grafton carnival

COFFS Harbour's international riding star Zac Purton is coming home to ride at next month's Grafton Cup carnival.

Purton began his career at Coffs Harbour and was the champion Northern Rivers rider before moving on to Brisbane and Sydney.

He is now making a big impact in Hong Kong, where he has ridden 23 winners this season and has secured a renewal of his licence for next season.

He will be heading back to Australia when the current Hong Kong season closes at the end of the month and has accepted an invitation from the Clarence River Jockey Club to attend the Grafton Cup carnival.

Purton will join Robert Thompson as the special guests at the carnival luncheon on July 14 and is seeking rides on the two major days of the carnival on July 16 (Ramornie Handicap) and July 17 (Grafton Cup).

Thompson, who resumes riding this week after a short suspension, is closing in on Jack Thompson's Australian riding record of 3222 wins and could make history by setting a new mark at the Grafton carnival.

"If I have a good run over the next four weeks I could be a chance to break the record at the Grafton carnival," Thompson said.

"That would be a great time to do it considering the success I have enjoyed at the Grafton carnival during my career."

Thompson won the 1981 Grafton Cup on My Star Sapphire and broke through for his first Ramornie Handicap win last year on Tamworth sprinter The Jackal.

The Jackal is set to defend his Ramornie Handicap crown this year with Thompson booked for the ride.

A big line up of Sydney and Brisbane jockeys and trainers are expected to support this year's Grafton carnival following an injection of an additional $110,000 prize money for the carnival featuring the $160,000 Ken Casson Motors Grafton Cup.

The five meetings will offer almost $850,000 with prize money for the Black Toyota Ramornie Handicap rising to $130,000 and two $20,000 maiden races a new feature of the carnival program.

The Ramornie Handicap and Grafton Cup meetings could set new betting turnover records for NSW country racing as they will be stand-alone race days with no other meetings scheduled in NSW.