Moreira believes Seasons Bloom’s still blossoming

Joao Moreira is confident that Seasons Bloom can continue his progression from nearly-horse to big race hero in Sunday’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

Danny Shum’s charge was a good four-year-old last term but not the best. That title belonged to Rapper Dragon, whom the unimposing bay chased when second in the first of Sha Tin’s three four-year-old majors, the Hong Kong Classic Mile. Nor was he second best - after all, Pakistan Star filled the runner-up berth in the Hong Kong Classic Cup with Seasons Bloom third; and, in the 2000-metre Hong Kong Derby, with Pakistan Star second again, the Captain Sonador gelding receded to fourth as Rapper Dragon completed a clean sweep.

But things are different this term. Rapper Dragon’s untimely demise and Pakistan Star’s foibles left an early season void at the head of last year’s four-year-old crop. Seasons Bloom has been doing his bit to fill it and already he’s proving to be an even better prospect as a five-year-old.

“He has really come back a new horse this season; he wasn’t quite the full product last year,” Moreira said at Sha Tin on Friday (8 December) morning.

Shum, seeking a first win at Hong Kong’s four-race Group 1 showcase, is in agreement.

“I think from four years old to five years old he has become a more mature horse, so hopefully he can now be more consistent. I think he can win the race on Sunday,” the handler said.

Seasons Bloom winning at Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

Seasons Bloom has two wins to his name this term, sandwiching a good second to Sunday’s rival Beauty Generation in October’s G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m): he conceded 8lb to that rival, another break-out runner from last year’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series.

Three weeks ago, fresh from a month and a half without a race, Seasons Bloom advanced a claim for consideration as Hong Kong’s best candidate to take LONGINES Hong Kong Mile honours this year. A smart change of speed carried the Australian import past last year’s Mile one-two, Beauty Only and Helene Paragon, to register a half-length triumph in the G2 Jockey Club Mile.

“I think he can win both (the Jockey Club Mile and the Hong Kong Mile),” Moreira said. “Danny worked out that he likes to be fresh so we’ve been keeping him as fresh as we can. I galloped him yesterday (Thursday) and he gave me such a great feel again. He’s as good as ever, if not better, and he’s a last-start winner, he won the main lead-up.

“I couldn’t be more confident than I am with him. He’s a very nice, upcoming horse and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins,” he said.

Moreira has a good book of rides in the four G1 features with Japanese star Neorealism a standout in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, Tosen Basil in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase and Thewizardofoz in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint. But he rates Seasons Bloom the pick.

“I think he is my best chance in the four Group 1s,” he said.

“It’s going to be a tough race though, it’s his toughest test for sure.” Moreira added. “I think Satono Aladdin, the horse that is coming from Japan, is a chance. If he performs the same way that he did when he won the Yasuda Kinen, he would be the hardest to beat.”

And, despite defeating Helene Paragon last time, the champion jockey is aware of the dual G1 winner’s talent, and of the fact that his mount was in receipt of 5lb last time. They will compete on equal terms this weekend.

“Of the locals, I think Helene Paragon, who ran second to him last time, is the one to beat. But I have a lot of faith in my bloke, he’s going very well and hopefully he delivers his best,” he said.

Shum, meanwhile, is buoyant as he aims to seal a first G1 win since Little Bridge won the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2012, especially after Seasons Bloom drew gate five of 14.

“That’s good, a very good draw,” Shum said, “especially when Joao knows the track, he knows the horse, he knows everything. He will be able to have the horse where he is comfortable.

“I’m excited for Sunday. I think he’s at least the same as last start condition-wise, even a little bit better. I’m really happy with him, I think everything’s right for Sunday.”