Joao Moreira has one more meeting to make hay in the absence of Zac Purton and the Brazilian admits he has upped his game while his main rival has been sidelined through injury.
Moreira has ridden 18 winners since Purton suffered multiple fractures from the horror fall in last month’s Hong Kong Sprint, turning an 11-win deficit in the battle for the jockeys’ premiership into a lead of seven.
Moreira has nine chances to increase his buffer at Sha Tin on Sunday before Purton returns to the saddle next Wednesday and their rivalry resumes.
“We always want to ride winners and Zac being out certainly helps me to extend my lead,” Moreira said.
“If you look at my numbers, they have gone up and I know I’ve worked a little bit harder because there was an opportunity presenting itself and I’m happy with how things are going.”
Moreira has been striking at nearly 26 per cent in Purton’s absence as opposed to his overall season strike rate of 19 per cent and he knows he’ll have to increase his work rate even further if he is going to push onto a fifth jockeys’ title, and second on the bounce.
“Zac being out is not a good thing for the sport, he’s going to be chasing, making sure everyone else is working hard and keeping the sport at the level that it is,” the Magic Man said.
As always, Moreira’s hand this weekend features some nice rides for John Size and the jockey continues his association with Master Delight in the Class Two Chek Keng Handicap (1,600m).
The four-year-old, who raced as Jet Propulsion in Australia, is chasing his second Hong Kong win at start five as he plots a course towards the Classic Mile later this month.
“I’m extremely happy with him, he was a bit unlucky not winning last time but I really believe he can go one better this time,” Moreira said.
Moreira also climbs aboard three other four-year-olds for Size, with Pins Prince, Salutation and Running Glory all shaping as gallopers with plenty of improvement to come.
After being caught in a pocket for the entirety of the home straight before finishing 11th on debut, Running Glory stepped up to 1,400m and produced a close third despite travelling wide without cover.
The son of Kermadec has drawn barrier four for the Class Four Tai Tan Handicap (1,400m) and Moreira should be able to find the rail in behind the speed and give the galloper every chance of breaking through.
“He seems to have enough ability to win in the class and where he is at rating wise and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t perform,” Moreira said, confirming he expects Running Glory to start his progression up the ratings sooner rather than later.
“You always feel like there is more to come from [Size’s] horses because he doesn’t put them under pressure and when they get that experience at the races, all that is going to do is improve them. He is one of those horses that I expect to go very high.”
Moreira also rides Tronic Mighty, Alcari, Armour Eagle, Whizz Kid and Parterre.