It was a relieved and apologetic Joao Moreira who left Sha Tin on Sunday night – sorry to those he let down with his brain fade at Happy Valley on Wednesday night but grateful he didn’t let the incident impact his riding.
Hit with a six-meeting suspension after pleading guilty to failing to ride out Zone D on the midweek card, Moreira responded with a superb quartet to increase his lead in the jockeys’ premiership to an imposing 15 wins.
“It’s a mistake I have made and there is a price to pay. I will pay with my head down and there is nothing that I could say but just [to] apologise to all those people involved because it is a mistake – a genuine mistake – made by me,” Moreira said. “Fortunately, it didn’t get into my mind and I’m still riding well.”
Moreira got the ball rolling with victory aboard The Golden Scenery in the Class Two Able Friend Handicap (1,400m) before saluting on Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained pair Beauty Live and Superbella, as well as John Size’s Pins Prince.
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The Golden Scenery’s backers would have been second-guessing themselves as the galloper played up on his way to the barriers but he allayed their fears quick smart once the gates opened, producing a commanding victory.
While Moreira was forced to dismount as The Golden Scenery bucked and dug his heels in pre-race, the Magic Man was in complete control when it mattered.
After taking Tony Cruz’s four-year-old back from gate six in the eight-horse field, Moreira allowed his mount to loop the field cornering for home and by the time they straightened with 400m to run, there was only going to be one winner.
The Golden Scenery finished two and a half lengths clear of the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Setanta, with outsider Roman Turbo running third.
While his fellow four-year-old Setanta is heading towards next Sunday’s Classic Mile, The Golden Scenery will stick to seven furlongs.
Easy! Joao Moreira loops the field and The Golden Scenery delivers in style. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/3FuiQnbpIW— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 23, 2022
“I’m happy with his win but the Classic Mile wasn’t a consideration – I’m just sticking to 1,400m with him and I’ll see what I can do,” Cruz said.
“I don’t want to gamble on him. He’s a sprinter, is there a Deep Field that can run a mile?”
It was The Golden Scenery’s second win from his past three starts and will put him on a rating of around 90, with Cruz unfussed by his galloper’s pre-race antics.
“I’ve been on horses like that – sometimes the young horses, when you go down [the chute] too far they are scared to come back,” he said.
Beauty Live races clear and just like that - Joao Moreira has a double! ✌️ #HKracing pic.twitter.com/uoS6u5ypgE— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 23, 2022
“All he needed was a handler to hold onto him and bring him back. He’s a very quiet type of horse, well behaved but he’s just shy, scared.
“I could understand how the horse was feeling, it’s not a concern for the next race – we just won’t go down that way and we won’t have this problem.”
Heavily backed late to jump a $2.80 favourite, Beauty Live broke his maiden at start two with a convincing victory from the front in the Class Four Helene Paragon Handicap (1,400m).
Joao Moreira again! The 'Magic Man' collects a treble as Pins Prince proves too good. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/26sPgXARUq— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 23, 2022
“Beauty Live impressed me a lot. He seems to be very inexperienced, very green. He feels like he’s got a lot of room to improve, which is a very good sign,” Moreira said.
Pins Prince made it two wins from five starts under top weight in the Class Four Peniaphobia Handicap (1,200m) and the gelding will now find himself in Class Three, while Superbella’s victory in the Class Three Seasons Bloom Handicap (2,000m) was the six-year-old’s third from 20 Hong Kong starts.
As easy as one-two-three
The Richard Gibson-trained Navas Two has continued his superb form, ringing up a hat-trick of victories in the Class Three Beat The Clock Handicap (1,400m).
After finishing ninth on debut, Navas Two has not put a foot wrong with three wins on the trot and the four-year-old’s one-and-a-half-length victory over Seasons Bliss suggests he’ll have plenty to give as he looks to continue his winning streak in Class Two.
Nice horse! Navas Two makes it three in a row as @Ruanmaiajockey seals a double! #HKracing pic.twitter.com/RTnV8LdMra— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 23, 2022
The victory brought up a double for Brazilian jockey Ruan Maia, who book-ended the card after taking out the opener aboard the Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained Kowloon East Star.
Never headed after jumping smartly from gate 13 in the Class Four D B Pin Handicap (1,000m), Kowloon East Star broke his maiden at start five after an inconsistent start to his career.
Off-course betting branches to shut
The Jockey Club will temporarily close all off-course betting branches from Wednesday, January 26 in “view of the latest worsening of the Covid-19 epidemic in Hong Kong”.
The Jockey Club has been shutting selected branches in areas worst affected by the city’s fifth wave of the pandemic and those that remain open between now and Wednesday are only providing “the services of deposit to or withdrawal from betting accounts and cashing-in vouchers or winning tickets”.