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Joao Moreira builds impressive momentum with Happy Valley treble

December 2, 2021, 8:59:48 AM

Joao Moreira’s stunning recent form has continued after the Brazilian notched a second treble in four days, further reducing Zac Purton’s lead in the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship at Happy Valley on Wednesday (1 December).

Trailing by nine winners heading into the 24th meeting of the season, Moreira’s treble aboard Super Hong Kong, A Smile Like Yours and Tianchi Monster enabled the reigning champion to claw the deficit back to eight as Purton pocketed a double.

“Any jockey would like to be riding three winners a day,” Moreira smiled. “But it’s just too difficult, especially in Hong Kong where the races are so tight. There isn’t much between the horses racing out there.

“I want to make sure that I keep on doing well. If I want to be competitive, I have to do my job properly and that’s what I’ve been trying to do – ride as well as I can and get on the best horses.”

Moreira combined with three different trainers – John Size, Tony Millard and Chris So – in marking the 11th successive meeting that he has ridden at least one winner.

Bristling with confidence after Sunday’s (28 November) Sha Tin treble, Moreira united with Size to land the Class 4 Hong Kong Golf Club Centenary Cup Handicap (1200) aboard A Smile Like Yours.

Having his seventh start of the season, the Per Incanto gelding logged his third win of the campaign as the Size and Moreira juggernauts continued to build telling impetus.

The four-time champion rider also profited from Millard’s decision to drop Super Hong Kong back from 2200m when the Kermadec gelding broke through at his 10th start to snare the Class 5 Nightjar Handicap (1800m).

Having his third start for the season, the gelding unleashed a sustained run to down Success Allstars and Wah May Luck.

Purton boosted his tally for the campaign to 44 wins, compared to Moreira’s 36, by sharing a brace with David Hayes, who banished the memories of a desolate November with a double of his own.

Hayes had just one winner last month – Red Majesty – and 11 minor placings, but the dual Hong Kong champion trainer’s exasperation was salved with Awe’s emphatic success in the Class 4 Frigatebird Handicap (2200m) under a sublime ride by Purton.

“He is a horse who was bought to Hong Kong as a miler, but he’s not fast enough for Hong Kong at that distance but at 2200m, I think he can be a good handicapper. It’s a big help having Zac Purton on,” Hayes said.

Improving his tally to 17 winners for the season – eight adrift of Frankie Lor – Hayes left Happy Valley with a spring in his step after another masterful ride from Purton enabled Poised To Strike to prevail in the third section of the Albatross Handicap (1200m).

“He got the monkey of his back and I think Zac Purton was a big help, it was wonderful ride. This horse, for the first year I was here last year, he wouldn’t eat and he had stomach ulcers. So, we’ve got on top of the stomach ulcers and we’re hoping now that he might be able to put a couple of wins together, especially at this track – I don’t think he’s really a Sha Tin horse,” Hayes said.

“I think I had a lot of placings without a winner in November. I know I didn’t have many winners but I had a lot of horses running well, so we weren’t panicking. I think December will improve a bit and I’m expecting the new blood to start coming through after January and then I reckon I’ll be strong again.”

Joyful Win cemented his reputation as a Happy Valley speed course specialist with victory in the Class 3 Robin Handicap (1000m) – the Shooting To Win gelding’s fourth triumph over the five-furlong course at the city circuit.

“He’s an expert at it,” Yiu beamed after logging his stable’s seventh success for the campaign. “He just keeps on improving. He’s the type of horse who wants to please you and always tries his hardest.”

Alfred Chan combined successfully with Douglas Whyte-trained Universal Crown to win the Class 5 Mesia Handicap (1000m).

Frankie Lor attributes Smart Idea’s success to growing maturity after the three-year-old claimed the first section of the Class 4 Albatross Handicap (1200m) under Harry Bentley.

“Last season, he was still learning as a two-year-old,” Lor said. “Tonight, he did everything right even though he was three-deep. I think he has more to offer.

“Harry is a young jockey who is good for us. He always tries hard.”

Michael Chang and Antoine Hamelin closed the meeting in style when Family Folks powered to victory in the Class 3 Tern Handicap (1200m), leaving both the trainer and jockey with their fifth wins of the campaign.

Hong Kong horseracing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (5 December).