Joao Moreira will ride the first international raider to grace Happy Valley when Macau’s Sacred Capital steps out in next month’s Group Three January Cup (1,800m).

The race, which takes place on January 8, is the only Group race at the city circuit and Sacred Capital breaks new ground almost three-and-a-half years after all Hong Kong Group races became open to international competition.

It will be the Joe Lau-trained gelding’s second trip to Hong Kong after he produced an eye-catching fourth in the Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1,800m) at Sha Tin in November.

“I got a call from Joao and he asked me whether he can ride him or not,” Lau said. “He must have liked his run [in the Ladies’ Purse].

Umberto Rispoli lifts the lid on his Hong Kong departure: ‘the loyalty is gone’

“I think he’s competitive enough to put in a good performance. Looking at the run when I brought him over last time, he ran pretty well and we expect him to be competitive.”

It took a significant amount of planning from the Jockey Club to accommodate the Valley’s first international runner, with the logistics around quarantining Sacred Capital creating some headaches.

Joao Moreira celebrates a win on Sunday.

“With nine races and the number of available boxes for the horses coming over from Sha Tin, we had to be diligent and make sure we fulfil our requirements to protect the horse population in Hong Kong,” said Jockey Club director of racing business and operations Bill Nader.

“We have worked it out with the [Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department] and logistically how we can do it. How we are going to go about it is a little bit unorthodox.

“Sacred Capital will have to arrive at Happy Valley a bit later than the Hong Kong horses. Once the horses run in the first and second race, we will disinfect those boxes and then the Macau horse can come in.

“Logistically it was a bit challenging, especially with the nine races, but it’s a Group Three race, it’s open and he’s good enough to run, so we wanted to make it happen.”

Trainer Joe Lau (right) with jockey Peter Ho after the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse.

Sacred Capital’s raid will be a revenge mission of sorts for Lau and connections after the horse was denied a run in the Group One Hong Kong Cup on international day.

After Sacred Capital, who is part-owned by Jockey Club member Eric Chen Ching-lung, beat home the likes of Furore, Ho Ho Khan and Eagle Way in November, Lau was hopeful his five-year-old would be invited back for Hong Kong’s richest race.

But despite only eight horses lining up, Sacred Capital could not get a spot.

“We entered the Cup but unfortunately we were not invited. It was very strange because they didn’t even have a full field. It was pretty disappointing to me and all the connections,” Lau said.

“In all fairness, I think my horse should have got a run in the Hong Kong Cup because they only had eight runners ­– I would have understood if there was a full field.”

According to Nader, it was simply a matter of the Jockey Club deeming him not up to Group One standard.

Joe Lau hopes Macau Derby winner can catch Hong Kong’s big guns off guard in Ladies’ Purse

“It’s an international Group One and if we think they don’t fit in the race we won’t allow the entry,” he said. “Some will say if it’s not fully subscribed they should be allowed to take a spot, but there’s got to be a limit.”

Sacred Capital is Macau’s highest-rated horse after winning the Macau Derby (1,800m) and the Macau Gold Cup (1,800m) – both local Group Ones – this year.