Superstar jockey Joao Moreira will have a sleepless night before making a decision on who he will partner in the HK$12 million Classic Mile, mulling over a plethora of options after Romantic Warrior and Sight Spirit put themselves in the frame with stunning victories on Sunday.
The Magic Man is riding in terrific form and he capitalised with a tremendous afternoon at Sha Tin, collecting a quartet of winners, but it was the efforts of those two four-year-olds that stood out.
The Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Romantic Warrior extended his unbeaten run to four with another brilliant display in the Class Three Hoi Lai Handicap (1,400m), easily accounting for David Hayes’ Lucky With You, another who could be in the mix for a berth in the Classic Mile.
The son of Acclamation looks a star in the making and Moreira was effusive in his praise afterwards.
He looks special, Romantic Warrior! 🙌 The youngster enhances his #4YOSeries claims by remaining unbeaten in the finale at Sha Tin, capping a four-timer for Joao Moreira. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/mwhbJM1EjC— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 16, 2022
“He showed me that he has so much quality and ability that I was confident going into the race today, but now we have to think about what is next because of what has to be called an impressive win,” Moreira said.
“As he travelled, another furlong he will appreciate even more. Today’s meeting is going to give us a very good guide to the possible winner of the Hong Kong Classic Mile – I know the Hong Kong Derby is different, but [for] the first leg the winner might [come from] today’s meeting.”
Romantic Warrior’s win came an hour after the John Size-prepared Sight Spirit made a mess of his rivals in the Class Three Lai Kok Handicap (1,600m) to complete a hat-trick of victories.
It was probably Moreira’s best ride of the day, finding the box seat from barrier 11 before enjoying a saloon passage through along the rail at the top of the straight, coming away to beat favourite Captain Win by two and a quarter lengths.
“I was asked before the race if this horse should be considered for the Classic Series and I kind of indicated that the more ground he steps [up] to, he was going to appreciate it even more and he showed that,” he said.
“He did win with a lot of authority – a very easy win – and he feels that if he steps up to even more ground, he will appreciate that even more. It’s very nice to be riding these kind of horses.”
Heading into the meeting, both Romantic Warrior and Sight Spirit were just below the rating required to gain a start in the Classic Mile – about 80-81 – but the former is assured a spot now while the latter will be right on the cusp after his dominant display.
But with the first event of the four-year-old series to be held on January 30, riders must make commitments, and the Brazilian has to pick between the likes of Master Delight, Sight Spirit and Romantic Warrior.
“It’s a very nice position to be in. I will [make a decision] by tomorrow because I don’t think the connections will like to be waiting,” Moreira said.
For his part, Size will see how Sight Spirit pulls up and assess the lay of the land before confirming his future plans.
“Let’s take stock tomorrow and have a look at it and see what the handicapper does and we’ll decide to see where he goes then,” the 11-time champion trainer said.
“He’s a little bit green in the finish of the race, which is probably the most notable thing apart from the ease of his win – he won pretty easily at the same time – so he probably needs some company to go up to the winning post and I’m sure he’ll get that as he goes up in class.”
Aside from the efforts of Romantic Warrior and Sight Spirit, Moreira also tasted success with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s En Pointe and El Valiente, from the Caspar Fownes stable.
It takes him to 62 winners for the campaign, a lead of 10 over arch-rival Zac Purton, who had a double.
“A fantastic day and a day we expected with the quality rides I had,” Moreira said. “I’m riding with confidence and I just hope I can keep it up.”