Nothingilikemore lost his undefeated tag last time out but jockey Joao Moreira believes the exciting bay should resume winning ways in Sunday’s HK$10 million Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Trainer John Size’s rising star is the top-rated among his peers heading into the first race of the three-leg Four-Year-Old Classic Series, his mark of 112 placing him 10 points clear of his closest ranked opponent, the Tony Cruz-trained Exultant. But as well as facing 11 rivals in the weekend feature, Nothingilikemore must tackle Sha Tin’s 1600m for the first time.
Moreira is of the view that the Husson gelding, a four-time winner at 1400m, will thrive at the mile.
“I really think he will; I really think so,” the champion jockey said. “He’s not the type of horse that will over-race and do too much. As we know, he has a very good dash at the finish and if he shows that kind of performance again that we’ve seen before, I think he’s going to be very hard to beat.”
Moreira has been in the saddle for each of Nothingilikemore’s last five starts - Ryan Moore was up top for his sensational debut score almost exactly a year ago - including his defeat at odds of 1.2 on 10 December. The jockey is certain that the short-head reversal to the talented Southern Legend, conceding 7lb, was down to an unfortunate aberration.
“He shouldn’t have lost the race last time,” he said. “Circumstances got him beaten, not the horse himself.
“At the start, the horse on my right side kicked the gate or moved and made a little bit of noise, so my horse kind of charged at the gate but it didn’t open as he expected; when he was stepping back the gates then opened, and instead of breaking with them he jumped up in the air. That’s why we got beaten on that day,” he explained.
“He’s not a horse that I have concerns about in the gate. It was just a little bit unlucky that things around him happened that way and made him do something that caused him to miss the start.
“He’s still a young horse, he’s only had six starts and he hasn’t reached his peak yet. He’s still learning and maturing,” he said.
Nothingilikemore wins his seasonal reappearance this term, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Moreira believes Nothingilikemore’s maturation could take him to the highest level.
“He’s always given me a good feeling and he will go very high in the ratings. I do think he has the ability to be a Group 1 horse,” he said.
But the Brazilian ace is also wary of Sunday’s high-quality opposition.
“I do respect Exultant, he won very impressively last time, he was an eye-catcher,” he said. “John Moore’s horse, Good Standing, ran a very good race first-up, beaten not far by a very good horse; and Lockheed, who I’ve ridden for Danny Shum, should have won last time, so there are a good number of horses in the race that deserve respect.
“I’m more than happy to have Nothingilikemore as my ride, though, because I think he will be the best of them. I hope to be proven right but to find out we’ll have to wait until Sunday.”
Nothingilikemore will also face stablemate Time To Celebrate, a horse Moreira has ridden in each of his last four races for three wins, the Per Incanto gelding’s five-race career having only commenced in September.
Brett Prebble will take the reins for the first time on Sunday and is hoping the third-highest rated galloper in the race can take another step forward in his rapid progression.
“He’s very consistent,” Prebble said. “A couple of them might be better than him but he certainly deserves to be there. He’ll give himself every chance by the way he races; he’s a top five chance for sure, and it’s big money. You never know, a couple of them might not turn up and he’ll keep trying, for sure.”
The enthralling contest also features the Tony Millard-trained last start winner Singapore Sling and the Moore-trained G1-winning imports Ruthven and Rivet.
The Four-Year-Old Classic Series also features the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 18 February and the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 18 March.
Sunday’s enthralling 10-race card starts at 1pm with the Class 4 Nam Kok Handicap (1000m). The closer is the Class 3 South Wall Handicap (1400m), in which the Size-trained Conte will attempt to maintain his unbeaten record at start four. Race eight, the Class 2 Lung Kong Handicap (1400m), will see the popular hulking grey Pingwu Spark attempt to take his career record to five wins at start seven.