Locked in familiar battle with Zac Purton for the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship, Joao Moreira aims to reach the century milestone for the seventh time in nine seasons when he takes a full book of rides at Sha Tin on Sunday (April 10).
Featuring once more in a riveting contest with arch-rival Purton for overall supremacy, Moreira has slotted 17 winners at the past seven meetings to leave the title race on a knife’s edge at 98 wins each.
Underlining the tight nature of the tussle, Purton still holds sway because he has more outright wins than Moreira – 97-96 – because the Brazilian’s tally includes two dead-heats compared to the Purton’s sole split decision.
As only the third rider to reach 1,200 wins in Hong Kong – a mark annexed with Natural Storm’s Happy Valley success on Wednesday night (April 6), Moreira is keen to quickly push on.
“I would never dream to be hitting such a mark (1,200 wins) before I came to Hong Kong and it’s no doubt it’s a pleasure to myself to reach there and the best part of that is that it’s not just that – there’s more to come,” he said.
“Every time we go out there to race, we try to win as many as possible and I can’t wait to make it 1,201 wins – hopefully, it’s on the weekend.”
Like Purton, Moreira is a four-time Hong Kong champion jockey and hopes John Size’s Running Glory can post his fourth victory in five starts in the Class 3 Sha Lo Wan Handicap (1800m).
“He’s been very consistent, hasn’t he? Every time he goes out there to the races, he does his best and that’s what a jockey would want – to get on top of a horse that tries his best and, apparently, he’s one of them,” Moreira said.
“He had everything against him, everything to get him beaten last start over the mile. I know he had a suitable run where they went quite fast up in front and he hit the line, going past them. He’s a horse that tries all the time.
“Gate number three is definitely going to help him. Don’t forget, he’s not a big, strong horse – he’s quite light. From these kinds of draws, you can hug the rail and try and hit the line strongly.”
Moreira has similar hopes for Erimo – another Size charge – in the second section of Class 4 Tong Fuk Handicap (1400m).
“He ran really well first up (when second to Eternal Bloom over 1200m) and I’m very pleased and happy that John Size has stepped him up in distance a bit and I think it might be just what he needs to go one better than last time,” Moreira said.
“I believe he has got plenty of wins in him. It’s just a matter of time until he gets them.”
Packing Treadmill shapes as one of Purton’s better rides when the unbeaten gelding tackles the Class 3 Ngong Ping Handicap (1200m) where he faces the talented Buzzinga (Karis Teetan) and Moreira’s Voyage Bubble.
“He’s done everything right, hasn’t he?” Purton said. “He goes up in grade now, once again drawn a bit awkwardly (barrier 11). It’s going to be tricky from that gate and it’s a much stronger race, so we’ll need to get everything right but he’s an improving horse and hopefully he can just get the job done for us.
“He’s working things out and he’s doing a good job in the process.”
Ruan Maia partners Navas Two in the Class 2 Mui Wo Handicap (1400m), confident Richard Gibson’s galloper is primed to succeed despite drawing barrier 13.
“He’s a nice horse, he’s given me three winners already and hopefully I can do a good ride,” the Brazilian said. “Back to 1400m should be good for him. The barrier is not so great but I believe the distance can help us to get mid-field and wait for the straight.
“When I galloped him last time, he was relaxed and very focused. I now believe he is at 100 percent.”
Lyle Hewitson bids to continue a flourishing partnership with Douglas Whyte when Cheval Valiant contests the Class 4 Siu Ho Wan Handicap (1000m).
“He’s found a field where he certainly can get the victory this time round. There are one or two horses that we certainly respect but he has been awfully consistent and he deserves to get a victory under his belt,” Hewitson said of the speedster who has three placings from eight starts in Hong Kong.
“He’s a capable horse and he’s got the ability to win. As I alluded to, it’s just been unfortunate that there have been sometimes one or two who have been a bit smarter. Hopefully this time, he can get the job done.”
Hewitson’s four victories this season have been atop Whyte gallopers.