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INSIDE RUNNING

Purton and other Aussies in 'world best' race

words by STEPHEN HOWELL

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ZAC PURTON: LEADING AUSTRALIAN IN THE NEW LONGINES AWARD

photography by HKJC

The "world's best jockey" for the year will be honoured for the first time in Hong Kong in December.

Longines, which is building its image in racing, has announced that the new award covers the 100 highest-rated Group/Grade 1 races from December 1 last year to November 30 this year.

There's a big chance that at a December 12 dinner an Australian will wear the inaugural crown, be he based in Hong Kong (Zac Purton) or in Melbourne or Sydney (Michael Rodd, Tommy Berry, Damien Oliver or Glen Boss).

After the weekend's Group 1s, the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield won by Boss on Foreteller and the George Main at Randwick won by fly-in Purton on Sacred Falls, the 74th and 75th of the top 100 races selected by the World's Best Racehorse Rankings Committee, there were six Aussies in the top dozen.

With points allotted 12 for first, six for second and four for third, Ireland's Joseph O'Brien and the Belgian Christophe Soumillon shared the lead on 72 from Brit Ryan Moore, 70.

Purton had 46, Rodd and Berry 42, Oliver 30—a mark he shared with Sydney-based New Zealander James McDonald —and Boss 24.

The good news for the Aussie chasers is that of the 25 races to go, eight are in Melbourne, where our cream will congregate for the spring: the Turnbull at Flemington on October 4; the Caulfield Stakes and Cup at Caulfield on October 11 and 18; the Manikato Stakes and Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 24 and 25; and Flemington's Mackinnon Stakes (November 1), Melbourne Cup (November 4) and Darley Classic (November 8).

The US has nine races to go, Japan four, France two and the UK two.

All up, Australia has more than a quarter of the races—26. The US has 20, the UK 17, France 11, Japan nine, Hong Kong six, Dubai four, Ireland and Germany two and Canada, Singapore and South Africa one.

The "award year" has been structured to fit around Longines' sponsorship of the big international meetings in Hong Kong in December, the jockeys' invitation meeting at Happy Valley on the 10th, which has top riders (on ordinary horses) setting the scene for the four Group 1s at Sha Tin on December 14, when top jockeys and top horses from around the world compete.

The four races that day, less than 48 hours after the awards night, fall into the next "awards year" — the 2013 quartet kicked off this year's award, and Purton won one of the races on Hong Kong horse Dominant.

His other two "top 100" were at Randwick, on Sacred Falls in the Doncaster Mile in the autumn and in the George Main. He has the Cox Plate ride on the horse, and has been engaged for Japan's Admire Rakti, regarded as a strong chance in the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup.

Purton is attempting to defend his Hong Kong premiership after dethroning South African Douglas Whyte, who had 13 straight premierships. The Australian's main danger is Brazilian Joao Moreira, who is overwhelming favourite to win after a last season's second place despite a late start to the season (after moving from Singapore) and missing many meetings because of suspension.

After just three meetings of the new season Moreira (seven wins) led Purton (four) and Whyte (three). Other Australians riding in Hong Kong this season are Brett Prebble and Christian Reith, with Nash Rawiller to start early next month when he completes a suspension incurred in Japan.

Meanwhile, Victoria's new Spring Racing Premierships, an elite 16-meeting version of the "world's best awards", is two weeks into its competition. Leaders are —

Jockeys: Nick Hall, Ben Melham and Boss on 13, from Dwayne Dunn on eight and Craig Williams, Luke Nolen and Rodd on seven.

Trainers: David Hayes &Tom Dabernig (partnership) on 20 from Peter Moody 14, Chris Waller nine and Darren Weir eight.

"Young gun" jockeys: Chad Schofield five, Damian Lane four, Tegan Harrison and Tommy Berry two.

The Thoroughbred Magazine
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