Rapper Dragon’s sad demise not only leaves Hong Kong racing with a hole to fill, but also a big race void for Joao Moreira and the champion jockey hopes that fellow four-year-olds Pakistan Star and Seasons Bloom can help fill that space.
Moreira is already looking to the 2017 Hong Kong International Races, and come December he hopes to be aboard Pakistan Star and Seasons Bloom, two horses that chased Rapper Dragon home during the horse’s four-year-old series sweep.
“I am looking for those horses that will be targeting the international races, they are the races we all want to win,” he said.
“At the moment I don’t have an obvious ride for those big races, the mile and the cup, and these two look like the type of horses that could be there and competitive on those big days.”
Pakistan Star might seem like an obvious candidate but Moreira also sees Seasons Bloom as a major contender in a mile category that lacks a true standout.
“Pakistan Star has already proven that he is up there, but I think Seasons Bloom is a horse that could be a surprise when it comes to the Hong Kong Mile in December, I know there is Beauty Only and Helene Paragon, and John Size will have a few coming up, but Seasons Bloom is still part of that group of horses that could win a Hong Kong Mile,” he said.
Moreira rode Pakistan Star in a trial on Friday at Sha Tin and will again partner the Tony Cruz-trained cult hero in the Group Three Premier Plate next Sunday.
The Brazilian last rode Pakistan Star to a soft win in the Griffin Trophy in December before choosing to ride Rapper Dragon.
Pakistan Star was second to Rapper Dragon in the final two legs of the series before proving himself against older horses with a gutsy second to Neorealism in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup.
Moreira kept Pakistan Star out of the kickback on an all-weather track left sloppy after heavy rain on Friday morning.
“He has changed a lot since I rode him last, he is a touch keener now, he really jumps out and gets into the bridle, you don’t have to ask him to do as much, so I just let him go around,” Moreira said.
On Sunday, Moreira gets aboard Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Seasons Bloom in the Class Two Moon Koon Handicap (1,600m).
Seasons Bloom was second, third and fourth in the four-year-old series and has been stuck wide with big weights in two races since.
Moreira’s booking on the horse means that after Sunday he will have ridden nine of the 14 runners from this year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby, but he revealed he had been given the option of riding Seasons Bloom previously.
“I had ridden Seasons Bloom in some gallops but again I had to choose between Rapper Dragon and him,” he said. “Both of them were amazing, that was obvious with Rapper Dragon but Seasons Bloom ran some really good races. The Classic Cup in particular, I was looking at him as my main rival and he ran well.”
The lightly framed gelding again carries top weight but this time gets barrier one on the C+3 course.
“He still ran a good race last start and wasn’t beaten far,” Moreira said. “He is a very exciting horse, and I think he is the type of horse that will be better again next season. He isn’t a very big horse, but I think the racing should make him tougher and more mature.”