Joao Moreira produced one of the rides of the season in defeat on Apache Spirit on Wednesday night and it might not have been enough to get the five-year-old home but his second was enough to get the gelding into a thin list of horses to follow from the night.
Looking to the future, the pickings were slim from Happy Valley, with Bear Rapper looking a horse to stick with for the rest of the season as he rises in class, while Apache Spirit is on the other side of the coin - he has come down far enough to think that he must score a win before the season is out.
Like many a French import, Apache Spirit had produced his best French performances on soft going and landed with an 85 rating which was beyond his attitude to justify. Now some 30 points lower, he is going well enough since joining Caspar Fownes in January to win a Class Four before the season ends.
Moreira performed a minor miracle getting Apache Spirit to jump fast, show some tactical speed from gate eight to cross behind the leader and then show a little bit of manageability and commitment to finish the race off.
Fownes is Apache Spirit’s third trainer and the gelding had shown all of those qualities at different times for John Moore and Richard Gibson too, but not all in the same race. More often, his 17 prior Hong Kong runs had seen him showcased as a slow starter, a fierce overracer (which only a good tempo and Moreira’s brilliant touch stopped him doing again in Wednesday) and he looked a bit of a thinker at the end of his races as well.
We can cut him a little slack for his (almost) overracing on Wednesday only because he was bustled out of the gates to get the position Moreira wanted behind the leader.
If he can draw a better barrier and doesn’t have to be launched out of the gates like he did this time, the hope is that Apache Spirit might drop his head and relax for half a race. Where he is rated now, that’s all it will take for him to be successful.