Staying races at Happy Valley can be notoriously tactical affairs and leading jockey Joao Moreira says he is ready for anything on John Size’s distance specialist King Bountiful in the Tai Shue Wan Handicap.
King Bountiful will be out to continue an excellent record over the rarely used 2,200m course at the Valley, which consists of three turns and can often see races run at a muddling tempo.
Slow lead sectionals can also invite mid-race moves and jockeys unleashing early sprints from a long way out, which is how Matthew Chadwick helped King Bountiful break through for the first of three wins over the distance last season.
Moreira was aboard for the next two triumphs, with one of them at Sha Tin, and although the Magic Man adopted more orthodox tactics on both occasions, the Brazilian said he won’t be riding conservatively on the likely favourite.
“They are tricky races,” Moreira said of 2,200m events. “But what we have in our favour is a good draw (barrier three) and whatever happens around him, he can adapt.
“I’m not necessarily going to try anything tricky – but we will do what we have to and he is the type of horse that if you have to take off early then he will cope with it.”
Moreira will be out to maintain his exceptional Class Five record in the opening race, the Heung Yip Handicap, on Great Speed for trainer Peter Ho Leung.
A clean start will be critical for a five-year-old that has dropped to a rating of 22 through 28 winless starts.
“If he jumps well, he will be right there and he can win,” Moreira said. “He has a better barrier this time but let’s see if he can make the most of it. Lately he has been jumping too slow, and in Class Five, if you get too far back you’ve got no chance.”
One horse drawn badly, on face value, is Chris So Wai-yin’s Flying Monkey, jumping from gate 11 on the “C + 3” in the Shum Wan Handicap.
Despite what seems a tough ask from the barrier, Moreira believes the four-year-old has the early speed to overcome it, with the key being a drop back to 1,000m.
“I think he is fast enough to get the front and I think he will be hard to beat when he gets there,” Moreira said. “I am not concerned about the gate, if it was 1,200m I would be more worried as over that distance they basically start on a bend and it is much tougher, whereas 1,000m there is a straight run and a lot more time to get across.”