Silvestre de Sousa's return to riding in Hong Kong has had a few hitches but he has a few reasons to feel optimistic over the coming week.
A visit from his English-based family has raised the spirits, as has the progress of both the Brazilian's home country and his adopted one in the Fifa World Cup. On the job front, he is set to have a ride in each Group 1 event of Sunday's Hong Kong International Races (HKIR).
The pick of the quartet could be Frankie Lor's Money Catcher, having helped the New Zealand import open his account in Hong Kong in the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies' Purse Handicap (1800m) in early November. They head for the HK$34 million Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m), with Hugh Bowman having deputised from the front as the gelding took fifth in the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup at this 2000m trip.
“I think he's an improving horse, I had a commitment with Panfield in his next race after the Ladies' Purse, I couldn't jump off. He ran well though,” De Sousa said. “I think this'll be his trip but we don't know if he's that class. He's a bit laid back and this is an international race, a strong race.”
The other mount that the 41-year-old knows is Cordyceps Six, a runner in the HK$24 million Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), as they were fifth in the recent Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).
“I was pleased with that run, we didn't have a smooth run through and I was a bit further back – I didn't know the horse but that's the way he likes to run,” De Sousa explained. “He finishes strong and if they go a bit quicker, it'll probably be better for him. Let's just hope things work a bit better than the last time.”
He is aware that a stern challenge could come from the same Richard Gibson stable through Wellington, who was only sixth in the same lead-up event.
“I think Wellington didn't have a hard race last time, they had found he had a couple of hiccups after it, but he looks great in the morning,” De Sousa said. “Who knows, anything can happen on international day.”
His day is completed with Waikuku, having finished third on the veteran in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile, as they head for a red-hot HK$30 million Group 1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m), and a first try aboard Butterfield in the HK$22 million Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m)
“I think the Mile will be one of the strongest races of the meeting but Waikuku is thereabouts, he always runs his race and ran a good one last time behind Golden Sixty and California Spangle,” the rider said.
“I've seen Butterfield run plenty of times, he's been quite busy already this season and just hope for a good run. He stays the trip well but that's as far as I know.”
That valuable score aboard Money Catcher came at a fixture where De Sousa rode his 100th win in the city as part of a four-timer, but also saw him pick up another ban. It has meant that although he is in the top echelon of the jockey standings for the season, he feels he could have achieved even more.
He said: “It hasn't helped by getting the suspensions, I've been unlucky and I'm not having a smooth run through that, but I'm pleased overall for the Club, the trainers have been giving me support and I'd say when you deliver a winner, they want you again. I've been lucky that way and I hope I can build on that.”
De Sousa had impressed in several previous winter stints here and decided to fulfil a six-month contract for this season. Much admired for his determination from rising right up through the ranks to become Britain's three-time champion jockey, he has options to weigh up.
“I've got a contract, so we'll see what happens,” he said. “Obviously the biggest problem has been being away from the family, I've got young kids and teenagers, so to move them here from England is a big move overall. You have to do things carefully in a way that suits me and suits them as well. But they're here now to spend Christmas with me, which is great.”
It could mean a little unrest in the house, because as long as both his football nations remain still engaged in Qatar through this weekend's rounds, then they could yet meet in the final.
“By half time I'll decide who to support!” he said with a laugh.
“It's been something to do and to keep your mind off racing. With the time difference it's been quite difficult to watch live, I have to be up so early the next morning. I usually watch the highlights, I watched both England and Brazil playing and they've done a fantastic job with the tournament, it all looks amazing on the TV.”