The Joao Moreira juggernaut continues at top speed after the Brazilian capped a momentous three-meeting burst with a four-timer at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (22 December) to be on the cusp of overtaking injured Zac Purton at the head of the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship.
With a quartet, treble and double at the past three meetings, Moreira has slashed a 10-win deficit to fellow four-time champion Purton to one. Still leading 49-48, Purton is not expected to return to race riding until early next month after suffering fractures in a race fall at Sha Tin on 12 December.
Moreira prevailed on Benno Yung’s Happy Jai Jai, Tony Millard-trained Above, Dr Winning for John Size and, in a farewell triumph for David Ferraris, on Here Comes Ted in the second section of the Class 3 Java Handicap (1200m).
The Brazilian was elated to be in the plate for Ferraris’ final Hong Kong victory after the South African decided to relinquish his trainers’ licence.
“I’m very proud of riding his last winner in Hong Kong. I know that means a lot to David, who has been a great add to the sport,” Moreira said. “It’s a shame that we see him going, but wherever he goes, we gonna remember him for what he’s done good here, which is plenty.”
Ferraris departs with 461 wins since joining Hong Kong’s ranks in 2003/04.
Moreira, who rode Here Comes Ted at 115lb, said his dedication to fitness was paying off.
“I’m grateful, I’m trying my best and pushing hard. I rode very light today and it’s paying off because we’re winning. Hopefully I can keep the ball rolling,” he said.
Frankie Lor and John Size both landed doubles as the pair continue to press for championship honours, with Lor leading 29-27.
Lor figured with We The South in the Class 2 Fort Handicap (1000m) after the son of Your Song posted his seventh victory over the five-furlong course and distance. Ridden by Jerry Chau, We The South refused to submit despite Kurpany’s lunging finish.
“I don’t know what it is, but he loves 1000 metres at Happy Valley,” said Lor. “He runs well on the dirt at Sha Tin and also over 1000 metres on the turf Sha Tin, but Happy Valley over 1000 metres is best for him.”
Lor stemmed Size’s charge when Lucky Archangel snared the second section of the Class 4 Tong Shui Handicap (1200m) under Harry Bentley.
“The horse did a good job, but the barrier (gate one) made all the difference,” Lor said. “We will probably come back here for another Class 4.”
Vagner Borges continued a flourishing partnership with Size when Wild West Wing confirmed his affinity with the city circuit with an emphatic victory in the Class 4 Merlin Handicap (1000m), the Exceed And Excel gelding’s fourth success over the course and distance.
“Very easy win. Mr Size’s horses are going very well,” Borges said, marking his seventh winner for the season for the 11-time champion trainer and a 10th for the season. Moreira was soon back in the act with Size, partnering Dr Winning to success in the Class 4 Westlands Handicap (1650m).
Millard praised Luke Ferraris after the South African delivered Meridian Genius with decisive timing to win the first section of the Class 4 Tong Shui Handicap (1200m), driving the grey into open territory for his second victory over the course and distance.
“It was a perfect ride by Luke and I’m very happy for him,” Millard said. “This horse has done a good job and he got a really good ride tonight.”
The dual Hong Kong Derby-winning handler soon sealed a race-to-race double with Above, who profited from a rails-hugging run to prevail in the Class 3 Marble Handicap (2200m) under Moreira.
“The horses are coming into form and for once we’ve got some better draws than we have been having – we’ve been having some diabolic draws so it’s been very tough to try and overcome the draw. Hong Kong is very tight, the handicap is very tight,” Millard said after posting the stable’s 11th win for the campaign.
“Joao rode a beautiful race, he got into a beautiful position.”
Benno Yung harbours modest hopes for Happy Jai Jai after the Savabeel gelding’s breakthrough victory in the Class 5 Whitfield Handicap (1650m). Contesting his 16th start, the former New Zealander had a head to spare over Centenary Ibis.
“He’s overcome ulcers and he’s been quite consistent this season,” Yung said on posting the stable’s 12th success for the campaign. “He was given a perfect ride by Joao and everything went well for him tonight.”
Igniting took the finale on the night, the first section of the Class 3 Java Handicap (1200m) for Matthew Poon and Francis Lui.