By David Morgan/HKJC
Hong Kong: Joao Moreira knows he needs a big response at Sha Tin on Saturday after title rival Zac Purton burst four wins clear at the top of the premiership with a fantastic five-timer at Happy Valley midweek.
The Brazilian endured a blank night as Purton put on one of those dazzling multi-win hauls that both brilliant riders have proven so adept at producing in recent seasons.
With Purton reduced to seven rides on the weekend’s 10-race card, Moreira is hoping his full book contains enough quality to at least reduce the deficit as both men continue their on-track grapple to beat the other to a fourth Hong Kong champion jockey title.
“It’s not over yet,” Moreira said after riding barrier trials on Friday. “I’ve got some support and some nice rides coming up.
“There’s no doubt that what Zac did on Wednesday was fantastic. He has proven he’s a world-class jockey and nobody should be surprised that he’s in front at the moment, he’s put himself in a much more comfortable situation getting a few winners ahead of me.
“But I don’t think people should doubt me because I have faith in myself,” he continued. “I know I’ve got it too, I’ve got the skills and abilities and I know what I’m doing. I’m very strong mentally and I’ll be doing my best all the way to the end.”
Moreira has set the pace for most of the campaign, with Purton leading the way for three short spells so far. The former expects the tussle to remain tight right to the final race meeting at Happy Valley on July 15.
“A little while ago I was 11 in front, then I was behind and then I went three or four ahead of Zac again; now I’m behind but who knows what’s going to happen even in the next 30 days?” he said.
Moreira is enjoying the rivalry, believing the competition pushes both competitors to higher performance levels. And, while he appreciates the excitement it brings to the sport, he is also keen to maintain a sporting approach and avoid the development of any false narrative about the rivalry having a bitter edge.
“The public is loving it,” he said. “But Zac and I are rivals only on the track. When we are off the track we are not enemies, we treat each other very well and I think we shouldn’t change that because if we do it will make things awkward for both of us and create an unhealthy environment.
“So far, we’ve been able to keep the sporting rivalry the way that it should be and if I’m the winner, or he’s the winner at the end of the season, either of us would have done enough to deserve it.”
Joao Moreira on the pick of his Sha Tin rides
Iluvataar (Race 3): “He’s impressed me in his trials and if he’s able to produce in the race what he’s been showing us, in regard to ability, I’m quite confident he’ll go out there and be competitive first time. I can’t say he’s going to win because it’s always difficult to win first up, it’s tough in Hong Kong, but he’s a quality horse.”
Hong Kong Win (Race 8): “He’s going good. Whatever problem he had, he definitely overcame it because he felt great in the trial – I don’t see that as an issue. His chance is good – the race is going to be hot and that will give him a chance to come from behind and run them down.”
Beauty Legacy (Race 9): “It feels like he’s responding to what he’s been taught. No doubt the race he ran last time suited him because they went a bit faster than the races he ran before; the step back in distance and the pace both helped him to settle down in the race much better, which was our aim with him. He seems very healthy and he’s going forward. If he performs like he did first time out it wouldn’t be a surprise because we have a lot of faith in him at home, we think he’s a good horse – I wouldn’t put him out of the frame quite yet.”
Farhh Above (Race 10): “Farhh Above felt like a good horse – he’s in the making still. He’s probably far off being at his very top in regards to maturity and ability because he seems like he has the potential to go farther than he’s gone so far. It seems like an even race – there are multiple horses with a good chance in the race and there’s no doubt he’s one of them.”