HONG KONG • Leading jockey Joao Moreira is seeking to replicate the heroics which saw him capture two of last year’s four Group 1 Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin tomorrow.
Last year, the former four-time Singapore champion won the Hong Kong Sprint over 1,200m aboard Beat The Clock and the Hong Kong Vase over 2,400m on Glory Vase. He was second in the Hong Kong Mile over 1,600m on Waikuku, who will cross swords with his conqueror, Japan’s Admire Mars, again.
The Brazilian, dubbed the “Magic Man” for his wizardry in the saddle, is looking forward to tomorrow’s grand meeting, which sees keen participation from overseas horses and jockeys.
Singapore’s Group 1 Singapore Guineas-Lion City Cup hero Inferno was supposed to run in the HK$22 million (S$4 million) Hong Kong Sprint but was scratched on Tuesday.
He was found to be lame in the left front leg.
“It’s once a year only and, even more, it’s special now as we can’t travel for other international races (due to the Covid-19 pandemic). So we, as jockeys, have to make sure we do our job at home the best we can,” said Moreira, who has had a great season with 51 wins, 20 clear of his nearest rival, reigning champion Zac Purton.
He kicks off his first international ride on the Caspar Fownes-trained Columbus County in the HK$20 million Hong Kong Vase.
The talented five-year-old was one of last season’s leading hopes for the Four-Year-Old Classic Series. This term, he has returned a solid Class 2 win first-up, before stepping up in grade to finish third in the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup over 2,000m last start.
“His run last time was quite impressive. He’s very likely to repeat that and he’s capable of being right there among the top three in the finish. With a little bit of luck in the small field – you never know,” said Moreira.
The jockey will rely on the John Size-trained Hot King Prawn, in the Hong Kong Sprint. The consistent grey lost narrowly to Beat The Clock last year.
“He’s so consistent and he’s had a great preparation this term. He’s no doubt another horse that I am quite excited about,” said Moreira.
The 37-year-old will aim to go one better on the Size-trained Waikuku in the HK$25 million Hong Kong Mile.
“The thing about him is that he likes to be fresh – his form shows that – and he’s going to be fresh going into the race. I have won on him first-up in the past – he likes to be that way,” said Moreira.
The talented miler won the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup over 1,600m in January, beating one of Hong Kong’s greatest horses, Beauty Generation, by a neck.
But, like most, Moreira thinks Hong Kong rising champion Golden Sixty, who has been beaten only once in 14 starts, is probably the one to beat.
“Winning is a different story. Golden Sixty seems a star, so it might be a bit difficult. But whatever he does this time, we know next time, he’s going to bring what he’s got best,” he said.
The Tony Cruz-trained Furore completes Moreira’s final Group 1 hope in the richest race on the programme – the HK$28 million Hong Kong Cup over 2,000m.
The New Zealand-bred won the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap over 1,800m, before overhauling last season’s Horse of The Year, Exultant, in last month’s Group 2 Jockey Club Cup over 2,000m.
“I think his chances are great. He did surprise me how he won last time. If he brings this form, he’s going to be one of the horses to beat,” said Moreira.
Besides seeking glory in the four International Races, he is also aiming at another milestone – his 1,000th Hong Kong win.
He is only four wins away from becoming just the third jockey in Hong Kong to record 1,000 wins. Only Douglas Whyte and Purton have achieved the feat.
With a full book of 10 rides, it is not out of reach, especially for a man who has ridden three or more winners in a single day 10 times already this season.
It would be a phenomenal achievement, especially with only eight seasons under his belt.