Happy Lucky Dragon Win

Moreira masters musical chairs

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 February, 2016, 12:15pm

Even if Amber Sky wins this Sunday and then goes on to collect the Hong Kong Sprint, and even if he then collects an overseas Group One and becomes horse of the year, Joao Moreira still pulled the right rein in choosing to ride Sterling City this Sunday.

Moreira showed he is a quick learner in making a shrewd pick, at least in part, based on the cold-hearted politics of the Sha Tin trainer’s stand.

It wasn’t so much Amber Sky versus Sterling City – it was the respective trainers of those horses, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and John Moore, that the Brazilian had to choose between.

It is rarely as simple as “who is the better horse?” or even “who will end up being the better horse?” when a jockey has to pick which horse to ride, and there are all sorts of considerations to make beyond short-term race results. In this case, Moreira believes Sterling City is the better bet in Sunday’s BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint.

Moreira has ridden both horses in their most recent wins – Sterling City in the Group Two Premier Bowl and Amber Sky in a Class Two demolition at Sha Tin. So Group Two versus Class Two won out, combined with doubts about Amber Sky’s bleeding issues and the fact he has yet to categorically prove he can handle 1,200m and a turn.

But Moreira’s quotes last week revealed the deeper aspects that go into a jockey’s decision-making process.

“Everyone tells me John Moore wins most of the cup races and I think it is important to have a good relationship with the strongest trainers if I want to do well here,” he said.

Sterling City was actually the first winner Moreira had for Moore, and the loyalty was quickly repaid when the Brazilian was aboard brilliant four-year-old Flagship Shine in Saturday’s Panasonic Cup.

Moore dominates above Class Two, often sending around four runners or more in feature races, and Moreira seems to have made himself the number one seed very quickly. Whyte had ridden Classic Mile hopeful Flagship Shine in his previous three wins but was suspended on Sunday and Moreira’s win has him firmly entrenched at “Team Moore”.

Another telling quote from Saturday’s racing was Moore’s perceived swipe at Whyte’s horse-hopping.

“I think Joao can stay on him (Flagship Shine) - that suits me better because I know Douglas already has Derby horses lined up for Ricky Yiu and Danny Shum and I just don’t want a situation where we have a conflict and don’t know if our jockey will be available or not,” Moore said. “I know that Joao will ride him the whole way through so we know what we’re doing.”

The trickle down effect of Moreira choosing Sterling City has gifted Neil Callan a golden opportunity on Amber Sky, who could just be something out of the box.

Callan knows all about the benefits, and the frustrations, of Moore’s rotation policy – he actually rode Flagship Shine to his first local win, before Whyte took over for the next three victories. An underrated attribute in racing is the ability to grin and bear it when things don’t go your way and Callan has managed it well when shifted off a fancied runner for a higher profile rider.

The Irishman’s six wins for Moore from 86 rides might not sound like much, but for a lower-table jockey who arrives late from Europe each season, the support is substantial. Callan’s pay cheques courtesy of Moore also include Group race placings on Dan Excel and Admiration.

In this game of musical chairs, the jockey left without a seat is Andreas Suborics. He rode Amber Sky in his first two wins, and declared the horse a future superstar after both. The humble Austrian hasn’t done a thing wrong yet is the last man standing.

Moreira’s decision to let the potential star go for the safer bet shows he already has the rules to this ruthless game downpat.