You wouldn’t spend three weeks off in Hong Kong right now if you had any choice but Joao Moreira found a way to look past the ordinary weather and rigid restrictions to ensure he returns to the saddle at Sha Tin on Sunday feeling like he’s had a holiday.
Outed for six meetings for failing to ride Zone D out last month, Moreira has paid a hefty price – missing one of Hong Kong’s five Group One meetings and seeing his considerable lead in the jockeys’ premiership evaporate – but he’s more interested in the positives.
“I’ve made good use of my time. I’m an old fella and I needed a freshen up to get myself to my very best once again,” he said.
“I learned a lot about my body – about my diet and my fitness – and I’ve made good use of this time to work out and get myself better.
“I’m feeling better than I was before the break. Of course I was forced to have a break, it was my own mistake and it has been a very expensive holiday, but I didn’t waste it.”
Itching to return to the coalface, Moreira finds himself one win behind rival Zac Purton in the race for the jockeys’ title after the Australian reeled off 19 victories in a tour de force during the Brazilian’s absence.
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Purton’s purple patch came after Moreira did a similar thing earlier this season, banging home 20 winners during the month Purton was sidelined by injuries he suffered in a fall in December’s Hong Kong Sprint, and the scene is set for a captivating run home.
“There’s 40 race meetings left, it’s a long journey to get to the end and there’s a couple of ways to look at it,” Moreira said.
The G1-placed Senor Toba gets off the mark in Hong Kong, digging deep to capture the feature under Joao Moreira! #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/OmxgdeVjVX— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 27, 2021
“From my point of view, it’s going to be such a stressful time – it’s going to feel like forever – but for the spectators it’s going to be great. No one wants to see someone winning by a big margin.”
Moreira returns to a full book of 10 rides and partners Senor Toba in the Classic Cup (1,800m), with the Caspar Fownes-trained grey stepping out for the first time since December after missing an intended run with lameness earlier this month.
“The perfect scenario would be if he’d had that run but I’ve been on him since then and he gave me a good feel,” Moreira said.
“While he might not be 100 per cent, he will improve and only racing will allow him to find that extra improvement that he needs.
Unstoppable! Joao Moreira makes it three wins on the bounce as Running Glory goes home best. 🔥 #YearOfTheTiger #HKracing pic.twitter.com/dnmTkRjV9F— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 3, 2022
“He needs to run a good race looking towards the Derby, if he runs a good race and makes it hard for them to beat him then I think he is going to be a seriously good ride for the Derby because he wants the further distance.”
Moreira shoots for three in a row aboard the John Size-trained Running Glory in the Class Three Mei Lam Handicap (1,400m) and the Magic Man was pleased to see the form around his most recent win hold up.
“He beat a horse that raced last week and ran very well, Copartner Ambition, so you would expect Running Glory to do the same,” he said.
“The race doesn’t look outstanding, it’s an even race, and he is a nice horse with plenty more ratings points to come. He’s not an overly impressive kind of horse, he’s quite a skinny, light-framed type, but his engine is pretty good. He’s got power in there.”