Joao Moreira is always confident of winning but the Brazilian seemed even more positive than usual about the chances of Happy Happy Star in the Lung Yat Handicap on Saturday at Sha Tin.
After a tough debut just under a month ago, Happy Happy Star is likely to start an odds-on favourite as the three-year-old returns to the same 1,200m course in Class Four.
He worked hard from a wide gate first-up but was unable to cross Daring Fit, another talented three-year-old who has since won impressively.
Since then Moreira has been aboard Happy Happy Star three times at trackwork and believes trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung has the gelding primed to breakthrough.
“He did it really tough from gate 12 last time and he really impressed me the way he ran,” Moreira said. “The form around him has stacked up, so that gives me even more confidence. The trackwork has been excellent, he has improved and I think he has a few wins in him this season.”
Happy Happy Star is one of a host of top chances for the jockeys’ championship leader and as such Moreira was installed a $1.22 favourite in Jockey Challenge betting last night.
After 44 meetings, marking the halfway mark of the 88-meeting season, Moreira has 88 winners so far to hold a commanding lead of 39 in his quest for three straight championships.
The lightweight jockey has four rides for John Size, including the final three races, where House Of Fun, Volitation and Beat The Clock could all start favourite in betting.
House Of Fun was unplaced last start after jumping a massive 14 points in the ratings for a five-and-three-quarter length win in December but Moreira felt the defeat may have more to do with a step up to 1,400m than the ratings rise.
That last effort was in an extended ratings band Class Three with 129-pounds, but Moreira said the horse will be better suited coming back to 1,200m with a light weight in Class Two for the Tai Hing Handicap.
“I think it was the weight on his back and the distance we went for, but if he runs up to his level again, he will be competitive,” he said.
Volitation is a horse that has surprised Moreira this season with two wins and has drawn gate one on the C+3 in the Wu King Handicap.
“Of course that draw helps, but you know I never expected this horse to get as high as he has in the ratings,” Moreira said. “But he has improved quite a lot, and now I think he is more than good enough to win in Class Three. He beat Winner’s Way last start, and he ran very well finishing fourth in the Classic Mile, so Volitation has form around him as well. Then there was his last barrier trial, which was amazing. He has a lot going for him.”