Joao Moreira will reunite with Champion’s Way for the BMW Hong Kong Derby, with John Size opting for the Brazilian ahead of star Englishman Ryan Moore to avoid any potential logistical dramas caused by the coronavirus.
Moore partnered Champion’s Way in last month’s Classic Cup but Size said opting to go with Moreira “makes sense” at a time when airlines are drastically reducing flights.
“International transport is problematic. Because the status changes daily around the world we don’t know if he’s going to be able to get in and out cleanly. It’s a bit risky,” Size said.
“Ryan doesn’t want to be in the situation where he rings me with five days to go and says he can’t come.”
Jockey Club considers private jet to get Joao Moreira, Zac Purton back from Dubai as coronavirus cuts flights
Moreira has been aboard another Size runner in Beauty Legacy for the first two legs of the four-year-old series, as well as a Class Two on Sunday where he pulled ferociously before finishing 11th.
“We were waiting to see how Beauty Legacy would go and he didn’t go well enough last start, so Size aborted the mission to go to the Derby and I became available,” Moreira said.
“Size rang me Sunday night after the races and said I could ride Champion’s Way if I wanted to, and no doubt I was extremely happy with that phone call.”
Moreira last rode Champion’s Way when third at Group Three level in January and has partnered the gelding in four of his six career wins.
The son of Hinchinbrook was third in the Classic Mile and second in the Classic Cup, with Moreira confident Size can have him peaking on the big day.
“I’ve been saying he needed those runs at the beginning of the season to find his best form and he has been getting there,” Moreira said.
It's a Francis Lui 1-2 in the 1st leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series as Golden Sixty & Vincent Ho claim the HK$10 million Hong Kong Classic Mile ahead of stablemate More Than This. #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/Po7XesM2s3— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 27, 2020
“His last run was actually very good, he ran second to Golden Sixty, who in my opinion is the horse to beat.
“If you run second, you just have to go one better to get there, so who knows. Maybe two turns may help Champion’s Way and gates play a big part over the 2,000m at Sha Tin. An outside gate will make it tough.
“He is no doubt one of top three chances in the race [along with Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained pair Golden Sixty and More Than This].”
While there looks to be a clear-cut top three in this year’s HK$20,000,000 contest, the remainder of the field is still taking shape and could feature a bolter.
Australian Group Three winner Thinkin’ Big trialled on Tuesday morning for the first time since suffering a suspensory injury in September, with connections clinging onto hope he could still take his place in the Derby despite not racing since June.
“He trialled lovely for his first trial, I didn’t want him doing more than that but he certainly couldn’t be doing any less than that,” Douglas Whyte said.
“We’ll see how he comes out of it, I’ll sit on his back in a couple of days and if he’s absolutely jumping out of his skin, I’ll discuss it with the owners and if they are absolutely adamant that’s the route they want to take, well they pay the bills.
“At the end of the day, I always put the horse first so if he comes out of this trial and indicates there is absolutely no way he’s going to run at least a decent race over 10 furlongs, then I’m pulling the pin.
“You are there to try and live up to the owner’s dream so I’ll try and keep that dream alive, but it’s a long shot.”
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen confirmed Irish import Decrypt will head to the Derby despite having never run further than a mile.
The colt finished second over 1,400m in Class Two earlier this month and Chad Schofield takes the ride for next Sunday’s feature.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Winning Delight will not be there, however, with connections opting to run him in a 2,000m Class Three on the same day after his eighth at Sha Tin on the weekend.