Champion jockey Joao Moreira closed out a brilliant 2015 with a six-timer at Sha Tin, topped off in no uncertain terms as Thewizardofoz put the lie to a lacklustre trial and put himself back on a pedestal atop the classic crop.
Moreira opened the day with a Class Five winner on O’Socoole then turned on a clinic to take six of the 11 races – the first man to win six on a day here twice – and to finish his calendar year with 174 wins in Hong Kong alone.
But the best was saved for last, with John Size completing a treble in tandem with the brilliant Brazilian when Thewizardofoz silenced his critics with a hollow victory that gave him back clear favouritism for the Group One Classic Mile next month.
That was where Thewizardofoz had started the season but two defeats at odds-on had raised doubts about whether the gelding was all he had been cracked up to be and a barrier trial at Happy Valley just over a week ago had turned up the noise.
“The horse wanted to overrace last time so I thought I’d give him a trial and we took the blinkers off,” Size said after watching Thewizardofoz demolish a strong Class Two field eased down. “Now, he generally doesn’t want to run too much without his blinkers – he’s pretty relaxed – and that was how he trialled. So he impressed nobody without the blinkers and we left them on for his race today. I think he probably redeemed himself today, and really he couldn’t do much more than he did – good time, won easily, big weight.”
Moreira has yet to decide between Size’s pair, Sun Jewellery and Thewizardofoz, for the Classic Mile on January 24 but yesterday’s win would have to be swaying him to Thewizardofoz.
“He definitely looks one of the best four-year-olds around. I thought he was too keen when Karis Teetan rode him the other day and suggested to John, maybe take off the blinkers but after I trialled him I said, “OK, don’t take them off,” Moreira said.
“He just needs cover and he was fine. If I want to ride him further back, I could, but I thought he needed to be where he was up on the pace to win this race today.”
Size said he had not considered where Thewizardofoz might run next but said it was probably unlikely now that he would start again before the Classic Mile.
“I have to look at the programme again but unless the handicapper surprises me and leaves him in Class Two, I would guess there isn’t a race for him between now and the Classic Mile,” he said.
Blizzard was brave chasing the winner home while back in the field, John Moore-trained Consort was a disappointment at his local debut in sixth and Moore said he will take steps to bring quick improvement from the expensive colt: “I think we need to geld him.”
Earlier Size and Moreira had combined with Right Call as the progressive four-year-old broke through for his maiden win and with Sergeant Titanium, who won his fifth from 17 starts in the penultimate race.
“Sergeant Titanium did a good job last season but he came back a stronger animal after the break this time,” he said. “He knows a bit about racing now as well and when the pace was slow that suited him, he dropped his head and relaxed and had plenty left for the finish.”