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Joao Moreira upbeat about jockeys’ title after eye-catching Sky Darci, Courier Wonder trials

May 14, 2021, 11:41:01 AM

Joao Moreira, who has a 15-win lead over Zac Purton in the 2020/21 Hong Kong jockeys' championship, was offered two more reasons to be optimistic about winning a fourth title this morning after excellent trial performances by Sky Darci and Courier Wonder at Sha Tin (Friday, 14 May).

Sky Darci, the winner of the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m), finished third behind Ka Ying Star over 1200m after being allowed to balance up and run home stylishly before unbeaten Courier Wonder was unextended to win his dirt trial over 1200m.

Caspar Fownes plans to run Sky Darci in the G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) on May 30 – one week after John Size plans to run Courier Wonder in the G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1600m) (1200m).

After Sky Darci's underwhelming results, Fownes and Moreira have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

“His trial went very well, and he seems to be in excellent condition. The pause between now and the Derby (March 21) has certainly done him a lot of good, and I'm very lucky to have a horse like him under me right now. He's in fine shape,” said the Brazilian.

“He was fine, he's right where we want him going for the sprint at the end of the month,” Fownes said. He had a relaxing rest after winning the Derby, and he's looking fine. He was really calm today, and I just told Joao to let him ride where he felt good and let him work the last part home, which he did.

“He's almost there; another quiet gallop and one more blow-out and he'll be there.

“I think he'll be very successful at a mile, and I'm really looking forward to the race. It'll be a fun race for him and I'm sure Ka Ying Star will run there and lend us some weight, so it'll be a good test and see how we stack up against horses who aren't the fastest.

“He's going to have a nice race. If he can win the race and look fine, we can start thinking about the major race (G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile) in December.”

Moreira, who has seen Purton win the last three championships, has a surprisingly strong opinion of Courier Wonder.

“He is such a rare horse; I've been thinking that it's been a long time since a horse gives me the feeling that he has. “I was simply asked by (John) Size to make sure that I don't go too far and that I look after him a little bit (during the trial),” Moreira said.

“That's basically what I've done. It was yet another fantastic chance for him to learn how to ride horses, and he seems to be very honest. He answered really well in the straight, and I had to keep him close because he has so much in himself, and I didn't want to use it all up in the trials and leave nothing left for the race.”

“I'm not taking anything away from him; he deserved to win those titles. I had to reach inside myself and see where the flame was and inject a little more air into it to raise it a little higher. Now what I want to do is keep burning.”

Moreira believes Frankie Lor's Master Eight, a PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin), will help him win the second division of the Class 4 Sapphire Handicap (1200m) after two recent trial wins.

“We seemed as fine as they looked on TV, he did it very straightforwardly and shown he's a very professional horse. “He's another one I should be looking forward to sitting on this weekend,” Moreira said.

“I'd be shocked if he went out there and doesn't do the way he did at the trials. He has the potential to be one-of-a-kind.

“Of course, we have to consider the other horses in the competition, but at the end of the day, it doesn't seem to be a really strong race, so he'll have every opportunity to kick off his Hong Kong career in the best way possible.”

The Class 5 Topaz Handicap kicks off the 10-race card at Sha Tin on Sunday (16 May) at 1pm (dirt, 1200m).