Joao Moreira is chasing an unmatched fifth win in Sunday's (May 29) HKD$3.7 million Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) when he gets the leg-up on Excellent Proposal for trainer John Size at Sha Tin.
Already unrivalled with four wins since the race's inception in 2016, Moreira will once again take a leading contender into the end-of-season feature race which is named after a famous Hong Kong summit located in the Sha Tin District and overlooking Kowloon.
Excellent Proposal is chasing a first win since his barnstorming triumph in the 2021 HKD$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m), while last start the Exceed And Excel chestnut finished a fine third in the Group 1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin.
“Very pleased – it (FWD Champions Mile) was a Group 1, a strong race and I was just hoping that he would run a good race, which he did. I think there is a bit more to come from him and it's nice to have him in a lower grade now because it's not as strong as last start,” Moreira said.
The five-year-old defied his +4000 quote to place behind Golden Sixty and California Spangle, respectively, on FWD Champions Day (24 April) last month.
Last season, the 110-rater collected a hat-trick of wins prior to his Hong Kong Classic Mile score, prevailing over 1400m, 1600m and 1800m – each time under Moreira.
“I'm quite excited to see how he's going to perform again because it's a fairly even race but there is no doubt that he is one of the winning chances,” Moreira said.
Moreira's four wins in the Lion Rock Trophy came aboard Rapper Dragon (2016), The Golden Age (2018), Champion's Way (2019) and Sky Darci (2021).
Against Moreira and Excellent Proposal (128lb) are Mighty Giant (133lb), Champion's Way (130lb), Savvy Nine (130lb), Beauty Joy (121lb), Cheerful Days (121lb), Silver Express (118lb), My Sugar (114lb) and Healthy Happy (128lb) – who pairs with Karis Teetan.
“He (Healthy Happy) ran a good race the last time I rode him, he's had a few issues, of course, and maybe that bothers him here and there but he's a horse who can get his own way and if he's feeling good on the day, then he could surprise.
“Frankie Lor's stable is going so well at the moment, so let's hope he's come back, gets a good run and is back to his best,” Teetan said.
On Sunday's card, Moreira will also hop aboard the unbeaten Sakewin (126lb) in the Class 3 Eagle's Nest Handicap (1200m), aiming to extend the speedster's perfect start to his career with a third consecutive win.
“He's a quality horse, he's promising and he has a bright future. He's done nothing wrong so far and I am not expecting him to do anything different to what he has done so far,” Moreira said.
The 73-rater has shot up 21 points in the handicap and faces a stiff test this weekend in his bid to remain undefeated against the likes of Buzzinga (133lb), Packing Treadmill (127lb), Brilliant Way (124lb) and Majestic Knight (123lb).
Meanwhile, Hot King Prawn has officially been retired from racing. The son of Denman became a cult figure in Hong Kong due to his ability, colour and name, and steps away from racing with HKD$37.58 million banked from 12 wins, five seconds and three thirds.
Owned by Lau Sak Hong, the grey's finest moment came when he won the 2021 Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) under Moreira, while his consistency rewarded him with four Group 1 placings and victories in the 2018 Group 3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m), 2018 Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m), 2018 Group 2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) and another victory in that same race in 2020.
Such was his nature and Size's training ability, the fan favourite – who garnered an extraordinary following on social media – returned from colic in 2019 to capture three more wins including the top-level crown which had eluded him in 2021.
He was crowned Hong Kong Champion Sprinter for his efforts through the 2020/21 season.