Joao Moreira clicked to 81 wins for the season on Wednesday night and Hong Kong’s three-time Champion Jockey is looking to close out the season in style as he heads into Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting.
Moreira returned to Hong Kong last December with the season already three months old. He hit the ground running with a treble on his first day back, riding as John Size’s retained jockey, and the Brazilian is delighted with how the relationship has worked out.
“I honestly didn’t think we were going to do this well, it’s all about the support we’ve been getting, being associated with John Size is a big help as he’s the trainer with the most wins so far,” he said.
Moreira has ridden 53 of Size’s 72 wins as the trainer has set the pace in the title race. Included in their haul together is the five-timer the pair landed on New Year’s Day, as well as two G1 wins with Beat The Clock in the Centenary Sprint Cup and the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Moreira’s alignment with Size has meant limited opportunities from other stables but with seven of his last 12 wins coming from outside of his retainer, the Magic Man’s talents have continued to be in hot demand.
“I’ve been very blessed in being able to grab a winner here and there for other stables, without the support of those guys I wouldn’t be able to be standing where we are,” Moreira said.
The Brazilian will attempt to hold second spot in the premiership heading into Sunday’s meeting with a full book of 11 rides, including the mount on Danny Shum’s talented two-year-old, Winning Method (127lb) in the Chancery Plate (1000m) for Griffins.
“He’s a very nice individual he’s been working well and I think there’s more to come with him,” Moreira said.
Winning Method placed on debut behind the highly-touted Aethero before breaking through with ease last start when sent out as a dominant favourite. Moreira believes the juvenile will continue to impress.
“He’s got quite a number of ratings to climb, he’s a nice young horse, Danny has done a very good job with him,” he added.
The son of Holy Roman Emperor will face a field of seven as he seeks back-to-back course and distance wins.
Moreira’s eye-catching book of rides also includes the Size-trained Hezthewonforus (131lb) in the Class 2 Staunton Handicap (1600m). The talented Kiwi import is seeking his second win in as many starts this season following a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
“Unfortunately he had a setback early in the season and he didn’t race for quite some time, he came back last time after a long break and proved his quality,” the rider said.
“Very few horses can do what he’s done, in regards to having a long break and coming back in the high classes and doing what he has done.”
Hezthewonforus ground out a tough a win last start over 1400m, leading all the way to score by a nose.
“He jumped, ran and never gave up,” Moreira said. “It looked like he was going to get beat but he just didn’t want to give up, he’s a good horse and I think there is more to come.”
Moreira will be looking to go back-to-back on Size’s Red Desert (126lb) in the Class 3 Sports Club Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup (Handicap) over 1200m.
“He’s not an easy horse to ride, he doesn’t really step out very flashy from the gate and once he hits the ground he just charges,” he said.
“It takes a while to get him to switch off and relax behind the others: fortunately, the way the race played out last time, horses kept putting pressure on up front and they weakened a little bit at the finish which gave him a chance to run them down.”
Beat The Clock and Joao Moreira, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Sunny Boy (133lb) returned his first Hong Kong win last start and although he has spent the majority of his career on the sidelines, trainer John Moore believes he is ready to begin his progression through the grades in Sunday’s Cup race.
“He had a slight setback after the last race which didn’t allow us to race for three weeks but he seems to have come through that injury,” Moore said.
“I still think he’s got ratings points up his sleeve. Even though he’s drawn barrier 12 he’s still got plenty of gate speed to get across pretty easy.”
Sunny Boy was fourth in the G2 Skyline Stakes in Australia as a two-year-old but had to wait more than two years before racing again, in a new country, with a new trainer. The gelding now sits on the cusp of Class 2.
“Everything’s ok now, there are no soundness issues at the moment and he’ll have another run again in July,” Moore continued. “He loves the cut in the ground - he’s by Star Witness - and that’s good because the weather bureau’s got us down for a rainy Sunday.”
Thinkin’ Big (128lb) finished at the tail in last year’s Victorian Derby (2500m) at Flemington as favourite but the newly-acquired Frankie Lor gelding might get his chance at another Derby next March as he begins his Hong Kong career in Sunday’s Class 2 Staunton Handicap (1600m) under Umberto Rispoli.
“He’s a very nice horse, seeing his form back to Australia it’s quite interesting, obviously in Hong Kong this first step in Class 2 will be a big step,” Rispoli said.
Thinkin’ Big won two G3 races in Australia when trained by Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott, and was third at G1 level in the Spring Champion Stakes (2000m). The son of High Chaparral has trialled twice on the dirt in preparation for Sunday’s race.
“The track was quite bad and with the heavy rain he probably didn’t appreciate the surface, but going on the grass I can see him being a different horse, he’s got a decent draw but Class 2 on debut is always tough,” Rispoli added.
Sha Tin’s 11-race card starts at 12:30 with the Chancery Plate (1000m) for Griffins.