Hong Kong champion Zac Purton fined HK$40,000 over Covid-19 Twitter post

Horse Racing Zac Purton jockey
Zac Purton: found guilty of misconduct over social media post Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club

By Jon Lees

Hong Kong: Champion jockey Zac Purton has been fined HK$40,000 after being found guilty of misconduct over a social media post which suggested a jockey had failed a Covid-19 test and.

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On Thursday Purton wrote on Twitter, “Has a jockey in Hong Kong just tested positive to Covid?” shortly before it was announced that Christophe Soumillon would not be riding at the fixture.

Soumillon was due to end 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ride at Sunday’s Sha Tin fixture but was stood down by the stewards because he was required to undergo further Covid testing.

Horse Racing Admire Mars
Christophe Soumillon on one of the rides he will be missing on Sunday, last year’s Hong Kong Mile winner Admire Mars. Photo: HKJC

Jockey Club stewards also quizzed Purton, asserting that his social media post could have cast doubt on racing continuing in Hong Kong.

A statement from chief stipendiary steward Kim Kelly said: “The stewards today interviewed licensed jockey Z Purton regarding a tweet he acknowledged that he sent out on Thursday, 10 December 2020.

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“Jockey Purton was found guilty of a charge of misconduct under Rule 155(5), the specifics of the charge being that he did send out a tweet on his Twitter feed at about 6.35pm on 10 December 2020 which said, “Has a jockey in Hong Kong just tested positive to Covid?”, such wording having the potential to create uncertainty regarding the continuance of racing in Hong Kong in the immediate future.

“Having considered the circumstances of this case as well as Jockey Purton’s previous record in respect of misconduct related matters, the Stewards deemed the appropriate penalty be a fine of $40,000 (£3,900).”

Sunday’s meeting was due to mark the start of a two-month stay in Hong Kong for Belgian Soumillon.

He has not ridden since mid-October and missed two winning rides at the Breeders’ Cup after testing positive for coronavirus in Keeneland. The earliest date he can return to action is December 20.

A Hong Kong Jockey Club statement said: “The Club has been informed by Jockey Christophe Soumillon that the COVID-19 test he received earlier today has returned negative.

“As Soumillon has been tested twice as negative and completed the necessary quarantine required by the Hong Kong SAR Government, he will be released tonight and return to the hotel arranged by the Club.

“To prepare him for returning to race riding and in the interest of caution, the Club has consulted our Chief Medical Officer regarding the necessary precautionary measures.

“Soumillon will take further tests starting from tomorrow in accordance with the Club’s established protocol. The earliest possible date for his return to race riding will be Sunday 20 December. The stewards will consider the upcoming development and make a decision at an appropriate time.”

Soumillon’s Sha Tin rides have been reallocated with Purton taking the mount on Normcore in the Hong Kong Cup. Australian Purton, who has ridden 1,200 Hong Kong winners, won the Longines Hong Kong International Jockeys Championship on Wednesday.

In another development Vincent Ho, due to ride local favourite Golden Sixty in the Hong Kong Mile, has moved out of the building where he lives over a potential Covid case. He will not ride trackwork on Saturday but will fulfil his Sunday engagements.

• More about the Longines Hong Kong International Races at the HKJC website

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