In the back of all our minds today as we wear our flamboyant hats and clutch our plastic flutes of champagne are the events that overshadowed last year’s Melbourne Cup carnival.
2014’s race quickly turned from celebration to horror with the news that the favourite, Admire Ratki, had died in the stalls just minutes after finishing 73-lengths. It struck us all, but for this man, one year on it is particularly poignant.
Jockey Zac Purton is riding today, and he says Admire Ratki will be at the forefront of his mind when he does. Purton will be riding Japanese favourite Fame Game, but says he is still haunted by the moment he felt his horse collapse beneath him.
Admire Ratki, also a Japanese horse, was in second place last year in the race when he dropped back with 800 metres to go. Purton said at the time it was then he began to have suspicions all was not well.
“I didn’t know it was as bad as it was,” he said. After walking across the line, the horse then died of a heart attack just minutes later, his death caught on camera and replayed on the evening news, shocking the nation.
One year on Zac Purton he has told The Age that he believes that by dropping back Admire Ratki saved his life.
“When horses have heart attacks – and a catastrophic one like that – they normally collapse during the running of the race,” he said.
“They drop dead underneath you. For him to stay on his feet as long as he did, getting me back safe and well, I owe him a lot. You never know what would have happened if he had fallen in the position that he was in, with 22 horses behind him.”
He says that it was “terribly sad and disappointing.”
“For it all to end in the circumstances it did is very tragic. It’s something I will never forget. Hopefully, we can heal the wound this year.”
Purton told News Limited that while it won’t change what happened “we can atone for it and have a little bit more luck this time.”
Watch the great champion Admire Ratki win the Caulfield Cup last year. Post continues after video.
32-year old Hong Kong based Australian Purton has described himself as a bit of a battler in the industry. He initially struggled to find his place in the world.
His father, a cabbie, told The Herald Sun that when he was a child Purton “ was always extremely small.”
“We took him to doctors in Mt Gambier and Sydney,” his Dad Phil told The Herald Sun, “ to be assessed when he was young. He was so tiny. The tests showed he had significantly delayed growth, as much as four years behind the others of his age.”