Champion jockey Joao Moreira maintains it doesn’t matter where he wins them – “a Group One is a Group One” – and the Magic Man added another notch to his big-race belt when Romantic Touch streaked away with a second straight Macau Hong Kong Trophy on Sunday.
The annual interport contest between Macau and Hong Kong-trained horses, which has a return leg later in the season at Sha Tin, is considered a “Macau Group One” under international classifications, but Moreira says it is still special.
“Every win means a lot to me and I count this as a Group One,” said Moreira, who won the race on My Name is Bond in 2016. “Actually, most times I have come to ride here, I have come away with a winner. I enjoy riding here and it’s pretty special to win the biggest race here again.”
Not only does the Brazilian feel at home in Macau because of the special administrative region’s link to Portugal but also because good friends and countrymen Manoel Nunes and Ruan Maia now ride in the gambling enclave.
“It is great to see those guys and ride against them again, and hear a little bit of Portuguese being spoken,” Moreira said.
This year’s win was even easier than last year’s success for Romantic Touch, with Moreira controlling the race from in front on the 2015 BMW Hong Kong Derby place-getter.
Trainer Tony Cruz said that the seven-year-old veteran of 55 starts might even be back next year provided he stays sound.
“He absolutely loves it over here, so why not? If we can keep him fit and healthy we will be back to try and make it three straight,” Cruz said.
Last year Romantic Touch revelled in the rain affected ground and again had conditions to suit underfoot on a foggy day at Taipa racecourse.
“The ground was yielding last year and although it was slightly better this time, good to yielding, he still loves the give in the ground and the way the grass is here,” Cruz said.
“Zac Purton rode the horse last year but he couldn’t take the ride this time, so we were lucky to get Joao. He did a great job of getting him into the right position from the start and rated him that way in front.”
Romantic Touch started even money favourite on the Macau Jockey Club tote and beat local hope Krystrump by four-and-a-quarter lengths, with Hong Kong’s only other representative, the Caspar Fownes-trained Marvel Hero, running home for third.