Joao Moreira shot nine wins clear at the top of the jockeys’ championship with a four-timer at Sha Tin on Sunday and said his sole focus is on regaining the crown Zac Purton wrested off him 18 months ago.
Moreira now has 69 winners for the term and believes he is riding as well as he ever has, even if he looks unlikely to reach the astronomical heights of 2016-17 when he snared a record 170 victories.
“I won’t ride more winners than I used to ride in the past. I’m riding as well but I just haven’t been able to grab rides with as much quality as I did in the past,” Moreira said.
“I’m not complaining, it’s just that some new jockeys have turned up and made the competition stronger, which is obviously very good for the sport. At the end of the day I’m extremely happy with the numbers I’ve had lately.”
But as happy as he is with his win tally, he said the number itself means nothing.
“I don’t have a specific number, I just hope to ride enough winners to be on top of the board at the end of the season,” he said.
“That’s my goal and it doesn’t matter how many, if I ride 150 or 110 and cross the line one win ahead I will be extremely happy. Fortunately I’m in the prime position but I can’t fall asleep otherwise I won’t be there any more.”
Moreira admitted last month that his work ethic slipped slightly after his five-timer on international day – his next five winners took six meetings – but said he’s quickly sharpened his focus once more.
“It’s nice to bounce back as I was questioned why I wasn’t winning as many races as I did at the international meeting,” he said.
“I wasn’t doing my job properly and I knew I should work harder. Fortunately today has shown what is possible if I concentrate a little bit more.”
Moreira’s four winners on Sunday came for four separate trainers – Tony Cruz (Supreme Witness), Me Tsui Yu-sak (Seize The Spirit), John Moore (Monica) and Chris So Wai-yin (Foodie Princess) – and the Brazilian said he’s pleased with the support he’s getting in his first season back as a freelance jockey after his stint as John Size’s stable rider.
“You have to try and ride for as many different trainers as possible and the numbers I have got for different trainers today proves I have been able to do that,” he said.
Moreira hit the ground running, racking up his four winners in the first six races after taking out the opener – the Class Four Orchid Handicap (1,200m) – aboard Supreme Witness.
Seize The Spirit broke his maiden at start 12 to take out the Class Five Rose Handicap (1,400m) and Monica broke through for his first win of the season in the Class Three Daisy Handicap (1,600m) after three consecutive seconds.
Moreira and So combined for their first winner together since March last year in the Class Four Peony Handicap (1,650m) on the all-weather track, with Foodie Princess storming home from the back half of the field for his first success at start 10.
The victory came at a cost, however, with Moreira copping a two-meeting suspension for careless riding after shifting in on This One’s For You in the straight. He will begin the suspension on February 26.