Ruan Maia is finally content with life after a difficult few months in the saddle left him contemplating his future.
It’s fair to say that this Hong Kong season had not started out exactly as Maia had planned and a slow start left him evaluating if this was really the place that he wanted to be.
“I thought about going back to Singapore because I was feeling sad here and I didn’t see any light to get more support,” Maia said.
The Brazilian had became used to feeling victorious in Singapore, where he rode 62 winners and finished second to perennial champion Vlad Duric in his only full season, before the lure of racing in Hong Kong proved too irresistible to resist.
Arriving in the city in February last year, Maia went from a potential champion jockey to struggling for success. He landed just six winners in 183 rides and that poor strike-rate continued into this campaign.
Maia had saluted just six times for five different trainers in the first three and a half months of the season but things are now finally beginning to turn, with five successes in the last six weeks resulting in Maia having a change of heart about his riding future.
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“After a few months I started to feel good,” Maia said. “I couldn’t give it up too quick, I needed to try for a bit longer and it was a good decision to stay here.”
Maia has struck up a good partnership with Richard Gibson, who has provided three of his 11 winners this season, and the jockey is pleased about his burgeoning relationships with other trainers.
“I’m very happy now because I’m getting more support at the moment,” Maia said.
“I’ve got already 11 winners, so that’s great because at the early stages of this season I was feeling a bit disappointed because I wasn’t getting too much support. Now I’m very happy, everything has improved.”
After four wins in January, including a couple on the exciting Navas Two – who has shot up into Class Two company after a hat-trick of successes – Maia will head into Sunday’s Happy Valley meeting full of confidence that he can add to his tally of victories this season.
The Brazilian’s best ride on the card looks to be Handsome Bo Bo in the Class Two Hip Wo Handicap (1,000m).
The seven-year-old, trained by Danny Shum Chap-shing, worked his way up to this company when winning three times last season and has been unlucky not to capture a race this term, finishing runner-up twice.
A win in a recent barrier trial suggested Handsome Bo Bo is in good shape for this assignment but he faces a searching exam against the likes of Nervous Witness and Carroll Street.
It’s always important for jockeys in Hong Kong to get aboard talented youngsters as early as possible and Maia gets the leg up on two debutants at Happy Valley in the shape of Nordic Combined, who runs in the Class Four Tsun Yip Handicap (1,000m), and Sure Joyful, who contests the second section of the Class Four Wai Yip Handicap (1,200m).
Their barrier trials suggest they may have their work cut so Maia will be hoping Common Room can improve on his first start when he runs in the first section of the Class Four Wai Yip Handicap (1,200m) and that Hong Kong stalwart Surrealism can win for just the second time in 33 starts in the Class Three Hung To Handicap (1,650m).
But win or lose at the Valley on Sunday, a rejuvenated Maia is certain to be facing the future with a smile on his face.