By Declan Schuster, HKJC
Fresh off Group 1 success and a treble on Sunday (24 January) at Sha Tin, Hong Kong’s leading jockey Joao Moreira is looking to keep his momentum rolling in his bid for a fourth jockeys’ championship.
Moreira has 15 wins through January and 75 this season after nailing a treble and his third consecutive G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) triumph two days ago, and he leads the title race by 23 ahead of great championship rival Zac Purton (52 wins).
“I was on board some really nice horses on Sunday and I just couldn’t be any happier than what I was when I went back home – no doubt the highlight was the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup with Hot King Prawn,” Moreira said.
But as the mid-point of the season nears in one week time, the Brazilian ace is not letting up in his quest to be crowned champion again after taking a full book of nine rides at the season’s 41st of 88 race meetings on Wednesday (27 January) at Happy Valley.
“Jockeys or trainers are nobody without support, it means if I am there, and I’m sitting there (on top at the end of the season), it means I’ve been getting good support and I just have to highlight that I do appreciate this,” Moreira said.
“I know I have to do my job still, and no doubt that I want to, and I want to make sure that I keep up a good momentum and ride as many winners as possible,” he added.
Moreira has sizzled at the city circuit all season with 31 wins and a 24% win strike rate from 129 rides, and his book of midweek mounts is highlighted by his renewed association with up-and-coming talent My Ecstatic in the second section of the Class 4 Ice House Handicap (1200m).
“His last performance was pretty good – I was very happy with it, he’s not an easy horse to ride to be honest, he hasn’t got that acceleration from the gates because he is such a big horse but when he does get going he has pace and he has ability – it’s a matter of time until he is able to put it all together and deliver what he really has best,” Moreira said.
The All Too Hard gelding is yet to win from three tries but did debut as a 2.1 favourite off the back of three solid trial performances. Last start, he narrowly missed by a neck under a positive, free-rolling ride from the Brazilian ace.
“The start before I rode him at Sha Tin, I didn’t quite rev him up to be forward, I let him be, so I found myself behind horses and he was a bit uncomfortable there.
“So then last start, we had in mind to just be more positive aboard him and use what he has got which is momentum and I don’t think it’s going to any different this time,” the 37-year-old said.
“We are not going to be doing anything different this time, we’re going to be using his momentum and hopefully he finds a comfortable position among the top three horses in the race, and based on his last performance there is no doubt that I am going to the races with confidence.”
The Frankie Lor-trained chestnut will break from barrier six against 11 opponents.
In the evening’s feature race, the Class 2 Chater Handicap (1650m), Moreira pairs with The Rock (118lb) for familiar ally, trainer Caspar Fownes, and the duo will set off from gate seven against 10 others.
Moreira has ridden 21 of Fownes’ 39 wins this season, eight of which have come at the city circuit.
“I believe he (The Rock) can do it in Class 2 off a light weight, last time I rode him at Happy Valley I probably went off a little bit too early on him and then he just got tired in the finish and a little bit lost, but he’s capable – I believe,” Moreira said.
Magnificent (123lb), now trained by Jimmy Ting, also contests the night’s feature, stepping out again after close-up second on the dirt last start at his second run for his new trainer.
“After his last start there are two dirt races for him, but he’ll carry a heavy weight in one of them and as a front-runner it is very hard for him, then the other race is a very high rating race which might be too strong for him – he always runs well at Happy Valley, so that’s why I’ve decided to take him back there,” Ting said.
The British-bred six-year-old will step away from gate 10 with Vincent Ho engaged.
“He has a lightweight and I think his form is a little better than last time, I hope that he can run well,” Ting said of his gritty on-pacer.
The HK$2.2 million contest also features General’s Delight (130lb), Star Shine (130lb), Sunshine Warrior (124lb), Reel Bizzy (123lb), Bear Again (122lb), Alpha Hedge (121lb), Delightful Laos (120lb), Invincible Missile (119lb) and the Frankie Lor-trained Solar Wai Wai (127lb) who gets the services of Karis Teetan.
“I’m glad he has a good draw this time – I know he’s the type of horse who likes to get rolling from the good draw he might not have to work that hard early on, he can save that energy for the end and I know Frankie (Lor) is very happy with the horse,” the Mauritian said.
The consistent five-year-old is a three-time course and distance winner who sets off from gate one and is, one of two rides assigned to Teetan by Lor, the other is debutant My My My in the Class 4 Glenealy Handicap (1000m).
The Unencumbered bay crossed the line first in a recent barrier trial at Happy Valley ahead of subsequent debut winner Winner Method.
“It was nice to see that horse come out and win, we were right next to him in the trial – he has a lot of speed and he’s had five trials – he’s ready to go to the races and I think this is the perfect race for him,” Teetan said.
Wednesday’s nine-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 6.45pm with the Class 5 Murray Handicap (1200m)