He’s had just the one previous ride in the ‘race that stops a nation’, making securing the 2014 Melbourne Cup mount on pre-post favourite Admire Rakti all the more special for jockey Zac Purton.
It has been five years since Purton, now 31, rode in his first and to date only Melbourne Cup field when guiding the Ian Williams-trained Munsef to a credible 12th behind the 2009 winner Shocking.
This year he will have the eyes of the world on him in Flemington Race 7 next Tuesday when he jumps in the saddle of the Japanese-trained favourite in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Purton will ride the Tomoyuki Umeda-trained Heart’s Cry seven-year-old Admire Rakti who has been leading the pre-field markets at Ladbrokes.com.au at a quote of $4.80.
The dour stayer hit the top of the Melbourne Cup odds following a successful Australian race debut with a win over New Zealand mare Rising Romance after a wide run in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m).
Recent winners of the coveted Caulfield Cup – Melbourne Cup double include Let’s Elope (1991), Doriemus (1995), Might And Power (1997) and most recently Ethereal (2001).
Japan are not without their success in the world’s richest handicap either having run the Melbourne Cup quinella with the Katsuhiko Sumii-trained stable mates Delta Blues and Pop Rock back in 2006 after the three year reign of mighty mare Makybe Diva (2003-05).
Born and bred on the Coffs Coast, Purton has travelled all around building up his reputation to chase this dream Melbourne Cup ride.
He’s won a Brisbane jockey’s premiership, ridden in Sydney and Melbourne and also rode in Hong Kong during 2007 two years before securing his maiden Melbourne Cup run.
Purton has then been based in Hong Kong ever since, but he’s always had the dream of returning for the big one down under.
“That’s why I went there (to Hong Kong), to specifically get a ride in the Melbourne Cup because I knew they were going to start coming back,” Purton told The Coffs Coast Advocate this week.
“Obviously the timing worked out well, but it’s not over yet, we’ve still got the big one to go hopefully.”
Admire Rakti may have the Caulfield Cup win and the support of the punters but he must set a new record for northern hemisphere horses if he is to win the ‘Loving Trophy’ carrying 58.5kg, more than any other Melbourne Cup winner has carried in the past 30 years.
He had his final piece of serious work before the Melbourne Cup acid test at Werribee on Friday, after which Umeda said through a translator how pleased they were to saddle-up the favourite for the premier race of the spring.
“We’re really happy he’s favourite now and his condition is so good so we hope he can answer the punters,” he said.
As for the main danger, Umeda said they were very wary of the second best in Melbourne Cup betting Lucia Valentina who went with them wide into the Caulfield Cup finish to run third in a brave effort as the beaten favourite.
“Because all competitors are strong, mainly the Caulfield Cup third [placegetter] because we run together and she’s only got 53 kilos,” Umeda said.
“She is the one we have to beat.”
Back your picks for the Melbourne Cup online at Ladbrokes.com.au and why not try your hand at the Megafecta where the first seven over the line could turn your $1 punt into a $10 million payout next Tuesday!