Joao Moreira became just the fifth rider in Hong Kong racing history to reach the 700-win milestone at Sha Tin on Saturday, partnering a treble to boot, but the Brazilian could not make any headway on rival Zac Purton in the jockeys’ championship as the Australian produced a treble of his own.
Moreira took the opener, the Class 4 Chai Wan Road Handicap (1000m), aboard the Michael Freedman-trained Lightning Steed, to join Douglas Whyte (1788), Tony Cruz (946), Purton (843) and Prebble (806) in the 700 club.
“It is very special,” said Moreira. “As I have said a number of times before, I never dreamed that I could reach such a number in Hong Kong, so I’m very pleased and proud of what I have achieved here. There is still plenty I want to achieve though, so hopefully it’s the start of a number of good things down the road for me.”
Moreira then took the Class 4 Tuen Mun Public Riding School Handicap (1200m) on Team Spirit for handler Chris So to make it a double from the first three races, while the jockey and trainer combined in the last to win the Class 3 Pok Fu Lam Country Park Handicap (1400m) with Top Beautiful.
So also won the Class 4 Pok Fu Lam Public Riding School Handicap (1400m) with the Chad Schofield-ridden Relentless Me to score his first treble this season.
However, it was also a case of what might have been for Moreira as he was relegated to the runner-up stall on four occasions, including twice behind Purton.
Joao Moreira celebrates his 700th winner on the Michael Freedman-trained Lightning Steed, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Purton and Moreira went nose for nose in the Class 5 Ho Sheung Heung Road Handicap (1200m) on Sky Treasure and Snowhooves respectively, with the former gaining the verdict, while the Class 2 Lung Mun Road Handicap (1600m) saw Purton on Simply Brilliant hold off the late surge of Moreira on Hezthewonforus.
Simply Glorious season for Lor as freshman sets new benchmark
The Lung Mun Road Handicap was not just a clash between two jockeys at the peak of their powers, but for John Size and Frankie Lor, also a battle between master and apprentice on a significant day for both trainers.
Size, who is set to be crowned Hong Kong’s champion trainer for a record 10th time at the conclusion of the season, saddled up Hezthewonforus, but he could not topple his former assistant Lor, who scored the first leg of a race-to-race double with Frankel gelding Simply Brilliant.
It was only fitting, then, that Simply Brilliant’s win saw Lor equal Size’s record of 58 wins for a freshman trainer. By the end of the meeting, Lor stood alone at the peak of the summit with 59 wins – and seemingly more to come by season’s end.
Purton, as he returned to the weighing room with Lor, quipped: “This man, right here, is the new John Size.”
But Lor, humble as ever, said that the goalposts had changed since Size’s debut season in 2001/02 – in which the Australian handler’s 58 wins clinched him the championship – and that his own achievement could only be measured in context.
“I am very proud of reaching this number, but it is a little bit different, because when the boss got 58, there were only 78 meetings,” Lor said. “Now, there are 88 meetings and we are already at 81 so it has taken me longer! I’m still very proud though, my team has done a great job and I’m so grateful to the owners too. I hope I still have more wins left in me before the end of the season.
“When I got my licence last year, I would have been very happy with 20 or 30 winners, but then the horses arrived and I thought that I had some horses in my stable that were rated nicely, so I’ve been chasing hard for a high number since then.”
Frankie Lor has become the most prolific freshman trainer ever after a race-to-race double at Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Simply Brilliant may have been Lor’s classiest winner of the day, at least on handicap ratings, but it was another Lor-trained chestnut – Glorious Forever – that shaped as a galloper of the future as he scored a four-length victory in the Class 3 Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road Handicap (1800m).
Glorious Forever, a full-brother to G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup winner Time Warp, looked every bit a carbon copy of his year-older sibling as he rolled along on the lead throughout. Barely asked for an effort at any stage by Purton, the rider even chanced a long look over his right shoulder at the 150m, only to find himself well advanced on his rivals.
“He looks a really nice horse,” Lor said. “Is he as good as his brother? I hope so! His last run was good and he improved from that, but I didn’t think he could win that easily. He’s going up to Class 2 after that, so we will see – we might run him again this season, but we could just wait until next season because we will have a really nice horse then.
“When the decision was made to bring him to Hong Kong, Time Warp was good – but he wasn’t as good as he became this season. It looks good now, but again, it has been a bit of good luck for us.”
The stalemate in the jockeys’ championship means that Purton still holds a five-win lead over Moreira, 124 to 119, with seven meetings remaining in the season.
The day’s feature, the Class 3 Hong Kong Riding For The Disabled Association Cup Handicap (1200m) on the all-weather track, went the way of the Richard Gibson-trained Joyful Moments, providing Jack Wong with his first winner as a senior rider.
Racing does not resume in Hong Kong until Sunday, June 24, when a pair of Group 3 handicaps – the Premier Cup (1400m) and the Premier Plate (1800m) – headline the Sha Tin card.
Zac Purton, aboard Simply Brilliant, holds off the late surge of Joao Moreira on Hezthewonforus, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club