It’s hard to fault a man who leads the jockeys’ championship and is one of the best riders Hong Kong has ever seen, but even Joao Moreira admits his Happy Valley record needs work.
Only 28 of his 107 winners this season have come at the city circuit – with just one in his past four meetings there – and he’s striking at 14 per cent at the Valley compared to 23 per cent at Sha Tin.
It’s something that has been a trend for the Magic Man in recent seasons, with a five per cent higher strike rate at Sha Tin last season (20 to 15) and eight per cent in 2017-18 (23 to 15).
While Moreira leads arch-rival Zac Purton by three in the race for this season’s title, the Australian has 13 more Valley winners than the Brazilian – something he knows could be crucial to deciding the title.
“No doubt I am aware of it but I’m on top of it, don’t worry about that,” Moreira said. “If you look at the results of the races at Happy Valley lately, there has been a lot of outsiders winning.
“I don’t think the rides I have been getting there have been that bad but I have just been a bit unlucky in barriers and positioning. I’m working on it to try and improve, for sure.”
Moreira looks well-placed to increase his strike rate on Wednesday night, heading to the tight-turning track with a full book of nine rides boasting a host of winning chances.
Californiadeepshot gets another chance in Class Three in the Causeway Bay Handicap (1,200m) after running second last start and Moreira is confident Tony Cruz’s three-year-old can ring up his second win at start five.
“I was quite happy that he stayed in the class because he was very much there to go up,” Moreira said.
“When I looked at the ratings and they only gave him one point I was extremely happy. He is a very nice horse who still has plenty to improve on and he’s no doubt going to the races with a chance.”
Another in-form horse Moreira jumps on again is the Douglas Whyte-trained Simply Fluke, who provided the jockey with his most recent Valley winner on April 8.
After nine fruitless starts for Dennis Yip Chor-hong, Simply Fluke won at his first attempt for Whyte, with the victory also Moreira’s first race-day encounter with the horse.
The five-year-old saluted from barrier 12 last start but Moreira knows he will need luck to repeat the dose from the same gate in the second section of the Class Four North Point Handicap (1,200m).
“We all know the gates play a big role at Happy Valley and the best we can do at the moment having barrier 12 is just hope,” he said.
“Douglas has done a very good job with him, he has certainly improved the horse and I honestly think he is going to be able to improve him some more.”
Moreira also partners Flash Famous in the first section of the Class Three Fortress Hill Handicap (1,650m), a horse who has won four times this season.
Two of those wins came under Moreira, as well as a last-start second where the Magic Man initially tried to sneak up the fence in the straight before having to change course.
“I think it was a very good run. We were a little bit unlucky that we couldn’t get the momentum at the right time because he is a momentum type of horse,” Moreira said.
“If I did get the momentum I think he would have won. Based on that I am obviously going into the race with plenty of confidence.”