The BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) belonged to trainer John Moore and jockey Moreira Moreira with Rapper Dragon, but it was Moreira who dominated proceedings outside of the feature with a five-timer of his own.
The Brazilian rider scored a double for trainer David Hall, taking the Class 4 Helene Mascot Handicap (1200m) on Mr Picasso (132lb) and the Class 3 Luger Handicap (2000m) on Mambo Rock (116lb), while he added the Class 4 Fay Fay Handicap (1000m) on Tony Millard-trained Strathclyde before taking the final race, the Class 2 Akeed Mofeed Handicap (1400m), on Size’s Western Express.
Hall said Moreira’s ride on Mambo Rock was a stellar display of horsemanship, but he believes it wasn’t the best ride on the 10-race card.
“I think ride of the day has to go to Joao’s effort on Mr Picasso earlier, maybe just,” Hall said with a smile. “They are always good rides from Joao, we get a bit spoilt when we have him on. With Mambo Rock, he drew one, he hugged the rail, and there was probably some thoughts about wanting to get off the rail, but he makes the right decisions and that’s what makes him so good.”
Mambo Rock and Joao Moreira, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Mambo Rock has now won twice from his last three starts, but Hall says the four-year-old is likely to have a break now before attempting to climb into Class 2 next term.
“He has scope, but I think he’s probably done enough for now,” Hall said. “We’ve thought about gelding him previously and I think if I take a bit of a risk and leave him as a colt until next season, it might be a bit dangerous. So we might give him a break, geld him and then see if he can keep climbing next season.”
Mr Picasso has proven a quirky customer at times, but the four-year-old finally broke through the top of Class 4 with a game success in the opener.
“He’s his own worst enemy, for sure,” Hall said. “He’s extremely nervous and we’ve spent a lot of time, done a lot of things with him that have not had much effect. He gets himself worked up, and the weather was probably a little kinder to us today so he looked marginally better. But I’m not looking forward to the hot, humid summer, it might take too much out of him. Hopefully, with more racing and with age, he will mature mentally, and it is needed if he is to climb higher.”
Size said he would continue to race Western Express in handicaps as long as he can, although he said he came out of a last-start 12th in the Hong Kong Classic Cup with excuses.
“I will see if I can find a Class 1 for him,” Size said. “The classier horses might be a bit too strong for him at the moment. He had a blood abnormality after the Classic Cup that ruled him out of the Hong Kong Macau Trophy but he’s thrived since, he’s come right pretty quickly, he trialled well and he seemed to actually freshen up well after the Classic Cup. That was crucial today.”
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (22 March), with the Class 1 Happy Valley Vase (1800m) the feature.