Moreira retains belief that Albert can master his rivals at Happy Valley
Joao Moreira’s continuing faith in Master Albert’s long term potential sees the champion jockey maintain his hitherto fruitless partnership with Chris So’s charge in the Class 3 Ho Man Tin Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley Racecourse on Wednesday.
Master Albert (125lb) has started favourite for each of his four career starts, only to run home third, fourth, fourth and third, with Moreira ever-present on top. But the Brazilian ace is confident the four-year-old can learn from his first Valley experience last start, when three-quarters of a length third to Charity Glory.
“A few things didn’t go his way the last couple of runs: he had some bad draws, and last time I was probably left in front too long, I might have gone a little bit too early on him. It was his first time at the Valley and that, too, was a contributing factor,” Moreira said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning.
Master Albert heads out at Sha Tin with Joao Moreira on board, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Australian-bred gelding had to work for a position last time and took a tough wide run on the turn to take the lead early in the home straight, only to fade through the final 100 metres.
“I wouldn’t say he’s weak but he’s certainly going to get stronger as he matures,” Moreira said. “To me, he’s strong enough to be winning the races he’s in at the moment. Once he wins, obviously he’s going to have to go on another step in physical improvement, as well as mental. But he is a very nice horse. I still have faith that, in time, he will go high in the ratings.
“Now, even if the gate is a bit tricky (eight), I do believe he’s capable,” he added.
So, meanwhile, believes Master Albert is in good heart for his third outing this term, and, while acknowledging the chestnut is taking longer to notch a first win than had been hoped, the trainer echoed Moreira’s sentiments about the maturity of a horse that only made his race debut in June.
“He’s in good condition,” the trainer said. “We expected him to be a good horse but his last two runs have been a bit disappointing. He’s still a young horse though and he seems to need more experience.
“Maybe the expectations were too high but I still think he’s useful. Sometimes, horses show their ability in their track work and in barrier trials but they just take some time to learn about racing. He’s only had four starts, he still has to learn, and, first time at Happy Valley last time, I think he still ran ok.”
The 12-runner field also features the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Harbour Alert (131lb), runner-up at his last two starts, as well as the top-weighted course and distance winners Flying Tourbillon (133lb), Perpetual Joyance (133lb) and Fantastic Feeling (133lb).
Master Albert lines up in section two of the Ho Man Tin Handicap, and one race later in section 1, the card’s seventh event, trainer Caspar Fownes is expecting a bold show from last start winner Mega Heart (133lb).
“His trial last week was really good; he’s a horse that, to me, looks like he’s heading up to triple figures. He’s on 79 and I’d be disappointed if he didn’t come out and win convincingly tomorrow,” Fownes said.
The five-year-old won both starts in New Zealand pre-import, and, after a Hong Kong debut ninth at Sha Tin on 22 October, the bay impressed seven days later with a deep-closing win over 1000m at the Valley. Mega Heart sliced through the final 400m in 22.23s.
“He was really impressive; he closed off with a great sectional,” Fownes said. “It’s a shame he’s drawn gate nine this time. He’s stepping up an extra furlong - the distance won’t be an issue but he can still get a little on the bit, so we’ve got to try work it out. If Nash (Rawiller) can get him in a position with some cover I’m sure he’ll be quite strong at the end of his race.”
Wednesday night’s card starts at 7.15pm with the Class 5 To Kwa Wan Handicap (1650m) and concludes at 10.50pm with the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1800m).