A treble kept Joao Moreira on record-breaking pace but the Brazilian was made to work for every cent of his prize money percentage on a trio of seemingly reluctant winners.
Moreira moved to 95 wins from 45 meetings, finishing the day a remarkable 60 clear of his nearest rivals in the jockeys’ championship and on target to break his record of 145 wins for a season, as Hammer King and Rapper Dragon made hard work of breakthrough victories and Be There Ahead broke a 28-race losing streak.
Of the winning trio, John Moore’s three-year-old Rapper Dragon earned the highest praise from Moreira, although he had to stay at the Group One-placed youngster all the way up the Sha Tin straight.
“He has a lot of ability, but he has a lot of room to improve as well,” Moreira said after edging out the heavily backed Travel First right on the line, but only after his mount took a long time to start making significant ground. “When we wanted to get going, he was looking around at the horses on the inside and I had to ride him very hard. Still, it’s only a matter of time until he grows into a really nice racehorse.”
Hammer King sat wide in the run and just scraped home by a similar margin to Good Man in a Class Four, the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained four-year-old laying in alarmingly late and even bumping the runner-up in the shadows of the post.
The inquiry lamp was hoisted after the incident and although there wasn’t a subsequent protest, Moreira did receive a reprimand.
“He is a horse that has a lot of ability but he just doesn’t know how to put it all together yet,” Moreira said. “Hopefully he learns a lot from this, but I’ve got to be honest, if he keeps on doing what he is doing, he is going to take a bit of time to win another race. He just hangs so badly – for 70 per cent of the straight I was fighting him, and when I let the rein off just a little bit he went from seven wide to five wide in a couple of strides and bumped the other horse.”
While Hammer King and Rapper Dragon may have nearly threw their wins away, Be There Ahead had already established himself as a non-winner of the highest order.
While the other two winners proved finding the line was the tough part, Moreira said the hard work with Be There Ahead begins even before the five-year-old enters the barriers.
Moreira missed Be There Ahead’s last start through injury and the Peter Ho Leung-trained five-year-old was slow to muster speed at the start for Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, and the leading rider was on a mission to make sure it didn’t happen again.
“You have to switch him on, get his blood pumping before you get in the gates, rev him up a bit,” Moreira said. “We were lucky to get a spot two-wide from that draw and he let down well, but I think he can win again in Class Five.”