After 1,234 Hong Kong winners, four jockeys championships and a long line of big-race victories, Joao Moreira is likely to have graced Sha Tin for the final time.
Moreira, who is battling chronic hip troubles, identified Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong International Races as his farewell to the city a few weeks ago and while he was unable to sign off a winner, he expressed his love for the city and its people in the parade ring before the first race.
“My time in Hong Kong has been outstanding, not just about horse racing but all the good friends I have made,” Moreira said.
“I couldn’t go home without telling all of you that I love you very much. I really appreciate the great opportunity you have given me to ride all these years in Hong Kong.
“The journey has been outstanding and the memories will stay in my heart, all the good ones and there have been plenty. Thanks to all the public for coming here for my farewell. I just would like to say thank you, I love you all very much.”
Moreira was looking to add to his seven HKIR victories – the third most of all time – but his best feature result was a third aboard Glory Vase in the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2,400m), while he rode two seconds on the undercard.
While Hong Kong racing said goodbye to one of its legends, some of the city’s newest equine recruits took centre stage with four-year-old Mighty Stride retaining his unbeaten record in the Class Four Falvelon Handicap (1,200m).
His trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai will be on the hunt for another rider as he points this horse towards the four-year-old series after fly-in jockey Christophe Lemaire followed up Mickael Barzalona’s debut win on the Australian import.
Mighty Stride goes back-to-back under Christophe Lemaire, scoring with plenty in hand for trainer Ricky Yiu! @christo68914587 #クリストフ・ルメール 🎌@netkeiba | #競馬 | #HKIR | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/p8I6jvU6Kr— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 11, 2022
“After he won first time, we immediately looked at the programme for [December 11],” Yiu said. “He’s a nice horse and did it in a natural style.
“He’s big with a long stride so it would be no good to have him in among horses. We let him do his own thing and he did it comfortably. He’ll go up in distance and do even better over a mile. That’s my goal for this horse.”
Mighty Stride was not the only horse to remain undefeated as Dragon’s Luck continued his winning thread in the Class Three Lord Kanaloa Handicap (1,200m).
Into this class for the first time after winning in a lower grade last start, the Douglas Whyte-trained four-year-old overcame an outside draw in stall 13 under a good ride from Lyle Hewitson.
“He does look very promising. I like the way he won first time out but more importantly I like the way he’s improved. I gave him his last two gallops and he showed me that at home and he brought it to the racetrack. That indicates he’s on an upward spiral,” Whyte said.
“For once I was quite happy with an outside gate. If he had been drawn inside, he probably would have got a bit too competitive early. Lyle took his time to get over and he was probably a more relaxed individual. It benefited him.”