A highly successful and popular jockey in Melbourne in the 1940s and 1950s, Jack Purtell also made his mark when he rode in Europe in the 1960s.
Purtell had his first ride in 1936, and quickly came to prominence with wins in the Williamstown Cup in 1940 and Caulfield Cup in 1941. In 1946-47 he won the first of his seven jockeys' premierships, the last coming in 1961-62. Purtell partnered Comic Court in 19 of his wins, but gave up the mount (to Pat Glennon) when that horse won the 1950 Melbourne Cup. However, he more than compensated by taking out three Melbourne Cups, on Hiraji, Wodalla and Rising Fast.
From 1957 Purtell made a number of working visits to Europe. His greatest success came when he teamed up with Vincent O'Brien for whom he won the Irish Oaks in 1964 and the English Oaks in 1965. On his retirement Purtell had ridden some 1,700 winners. He continued his association with racing as a VRC Stipendiary Steward.
Purtell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.