Joao Moreira’s startling ascent into racing’s stratosphere has encompassed yet another milestone with the Brazilian becoming only the third jockey in history to notch 1000 winners in Hong Kong.
The ‘Magic Man’ reached the monumental mark when John Size’s Incanto Prepared sealed the second leg of a Moreira running double at Happy Valley, winning the Class 4 Uranus Handicap (1650m) to propel the South American into an elite Hong Kong club.
Only Douglas Whyte (1813), the 13-times champion jockey, and Zac Purton (1209), have posted more victories in the world’s most competitive racing jurisdiction.
Moreira’s latest achievement – hewn from 4595 rides in Hong Kong – is the amiable horseman’s latest decoration and he appeared genuinely humbled after finishing the meeting with a treble.
“I can only describe it as a dream come true because I never dreamed that, to be honest, and I would never think that I could get to that mark in Hong Kong, knowing the place is such a tough place,” he said.
“I didn’t get there by myself – I had great support behind my back, pushing forward in all ways.
“Of course, good horses make the jockeys’ life much easier and I would describe the horses as the ones who make my life such a special life.
“I really enjoy doing what I do and I’m very pleased and glad to get to such a mark, a mark I never dreamed to get to – it’s very meaningful.
“I must dedicate this to my family, my wife (Taciana), my kids, my brothers and sisters and my mum, who are no doubt cheering for me to get to this mark and without their support, I would say I could never reach to this mark.
“Support is always the main thing behind the scenes.”
With victory on Incanto Prepared, Perfect To Play (Caspar Fownes) and Kinda Cool (Frankie Lor), Moreira’s seasonal tally stands at 56 – 17 more than nearest pursuer Purton – after the 32nd of 88 meetings.
If not for the intervention of Christophe Soumillon, Moreira’s haul would have been even more formidable.
Moreira was denied by short head margins in successive races as Soumillon underlined his strength and poise with a race-to-race double of his own aboard Happy Good Guys in the Class 4 Jupiter Handicap (1000m) and Here Comes Ted in the first section of the Class 4 Saturn Handicap (1200m).
Owner of more than 1000 wins in South America, Moreira dominated with four jockeys’ championships in Singapore between 2010 and 2013 before making an immediate – and spectacular – impact in Hong Kong, where he was crowned as leading rider in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Moreira set the standard from the outset on Wednesday, combining with Fownes to open the program with narrow victory through Perfect To Play in the Class 5 Neptune Handicap (1650m).
Runner-up in Group 3 company in Ireland as a three-year-old, the gelding posted his fourth win in Hong Kong – with three of those successes at Happy Valley – with only a nose to spare over Happy Hour and Purton.
“Very happy to get the win,” Fownes said. “The horse has done a good job. You can never be sure in those tight finishes.”
Soumillon then took centre stage before Purton landed a timely blow in the championship race by twice combining with Danny Shum with a brace of his own.
The Australian was at his best as Grateful Heart upstaged race-favourite Super Axiom (11th) to claim the second section of the Class 3 Venus Handicap (1200m) before piloting Reel Bizzy to victory in the Class 3 Mars Handicap (1650m).
Vincent Ho, who was successful on Management Supreme for Francis Lui in the second section of the Class 4 Saturn Handicap (1200m), and Matthew Chadwick, who drove Californiadeepshot for Tony Cruz interrupted the three-way rivalry shared by Moreira, Soumillon and Purton.
Californiadeepshot’s triumph in the HK $2.2 million Class 2 Mercury Handicap (1200m) realised a High Achievement Bonus of HK$1 million.