Joao Moreira aims to break hoodoo
'Magic Man' returns to Singapore to ride John Moore-trained Military Attack and Sterling City - hoping for international Group One victories in the city state
For all of Joao Moreira's remarkable riding feats at Kranji Racecourse, the two international Group Ones have eluded him and on Sunday he returns as a determined visitor with his best chance ever to break that hoodoo.
A refreshed Moreira - clear minded after a week-long holiday in his homeland of Brazil - resumes riding on Saturday at Sha Tin after a three-meeting suspension with his championship chances hanging by a thread, but he is also focused on another homecoming of sorts when he rides a pair of John Moore-trained big-race fancies: Military Attack in the Singapore Airlines International Cup and Sterling City in the KrisFlyer International Sprint.
"I haven't been able to win one before, but there is something very different this time - I am on Hong Kong horses," he said after flying in to ride the pair in their final piece of work on the turf where he made his legend. "I am looking forward to it and I'm feeling no pressure."
Just after sunrise, sitting on the balcony of the mess hall for track staff that overlooks the racecourse, Moreira seemed relaxed and confident. "It is a very special place to me and that's why this would mean so much to win these races," Moreira said.
"I have been trying for five years. The best I did was third on Waikato three years ago."
Moreira's amazing breakout stint in Singapore garnered four straight titles, the 30-year-old amassing 700 winners and an eight-timer among a haul of records.
Last October, Moreira brought his magic to Hong Kong and has since risen to a new level of superstardom - dual Group One wins on Dubai World Cup night showcasing his remarkable talent to the world.
What is still missing from the résumé are the two biggest races on the Singapore calendar and Moreira has a "good feeling" that will change on Sunday, despite both horses drawing barrier 10 and putting in unconvincing efforts at trackwork this week.
"It's a tough call from those draws, but we have got to play with what we have got," he said.
"We haven't talked about tactics with connections yet, but I don't think we should be changing much from what the horses like to do. Military Attack usually goes forward and takes up a handy position - when he was getting further back he was finishing, but not with enough time to catch them.
"The sprint draw is much tougher. We just have to get some luck and hope we can get cover. In these big sprint races, it doesn't matter where in the world. They go fast and then they finish off strongly as well. Sterling City is not a leader, but we can't be too far away."
Sterling City has been a touch scratchy in his action this week, but Moreira was unconcerned, saying the gelding was the same before winning the Golden Shaheen last start in Dubai.
Moreira said his getaway had done wonders for his mindset and he had basically conceded the championship to Zac Purton, who extended his lead to 15 winners in his rival's absence, with 15 meetings to go in the term.
"I had a lot on my mind, with all of the suspensions I've had, but I went back and I surprised my mother. She didn't know I was coming home and when you see the look on her face, then all of a sudden there isn't a worry in your mind," he said. "I'm not even thinking about the jockeys' championship."