Joao Moreira remains confident he pulled the right rein when he elected to ride Sky Darci in the four-year-old series despite his Classic Mile flop last month.
The top-rated youngster was all the rage heading into the first leg of the Classic Series, but offered nothing in the straight despite being given a perfect ride by the Magic Man.
To rub salt into the wound for Moreira, the John Size-trained Excellent Proposal stormed to victory – a horse he had the option to ride before choosing to ride Sky Darci.
As a Class One winner this season, Moreira is willing to forgive the Caspar Fownes-trained galloper in the Classic Cup (1,800m) as he looks to build his Derby credentials.
“He wasn’t able to deliver what he has in the Classic Mile, he was a long way off his best,” an upbeat Moreira said.
“He has been working well lately, he is likely to deliver what he has on Sunday, I am still confident about him being as good as any other horse in the race.”
As the championship-leading jockey, Moreira had an embarrassment of riches heading into the Classic Mile but ultimately sided with Sky Darci following his second-placing behind Champion’s Way in the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,600m).
The Brazilian has been going back through the record books for inspiration after Champion’s Way almost pipped superstar Golden Sixty in last year’s Classic Cup as a $13 outsider.
“Don’t forget Champion’s Way ran second to Golden Sixty in the race last year,” he said.
Top win!— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 24, 2021
Excellent Proposal bounces back to his best and grabs the 1st leg of the #4YOSeries, the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile under @blake_shinn for trainer John Size! #HKracing pic.twitter.com/E4JGiQJYsG
“Based on the way he ran behind Champion’s Way earlier on in the season, he might be good enough to do it here.
“You wonder why I chose him to ride last time? It’s because his form was good enough to indicate to me that he was good enough at this level.”
While Moreira doesn’t know what went wrong with the son of Darci Brahma in the Classic Mile, he is happy to put his faith in Fownes to turn the tables four weeks on.
“I’m hoping that whatever Caspar has done has been enough to get him back to his best,” he said.
“The distance [1,800m] is a bit of an unknown too, we haven’t been there just yet so it is a question mark.”
Moreira is looking to win the HK$12 million feature for the second time after saluting aboard Rapper Dragon in 2017.
He would go on to sweep the Classic Series after that but has not been able to feature since.
The race has a history of upsets with seven double-figure chances winning since 2006 including blowout chances It Has To Be You ($126) in 2013 and Mission Tycoon ($92) in 2019.
Fownes’ first and last Classic Cup win came with Green Birdie, who he stretched to 1,800m after being regarded as a top-class sprinter in 2008.
He would go on to win a Group One KrisFlyer International Sprint (1,200m) in Singapore.
Moreira boasts a full book of 10 rides on the day which includes likely Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup favourite Waikuku along with Furore in the Hong Kong Gold Cup.
He also rides Panfield in the Class Two Ambitious Dragon Handicap (2,000m), where the Chilean import will look to secure a spot in the Derby next month.