Joao Moreira will join forces with Senor Toba in Qatar on February 18 in spite of Hugh Bowman’s successful reunion with Caspar Fownes’ grey galloper in the Group Three Centenary Vase (1,800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Bowman, whose two collaborations with Senor Toba in Australia resulted in a Group Three victory and a Group One nose second, indicated in his post-race interview he would be interested in partnering his old acquaintance in the H.H. The Amir Trophy (2,400m) at Al Rayyan Racecourse later this month.

But Fownes took the gloss off what was Bowman’s 50th Hong Kong winner while the jockey was preparing to ride another of the trainer’s stars, Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) fifth placegetter Sky Field, when he revealed he had booked Moreira.

“I’ve already made the decision Joao Moreira will ride the horse,” Fownes said soon after Senor Toba made it back-to-back Centenary Vase victories for his stable, with Zebrowski winning last year’s edition.

“I’m happy to have Joao on. He’s had good success on the horse, and I think even if Hugh came [to Qatar], the flight back means he’d miss the racing in Hong Kong, so I don’t think it’d work out.

“But going forward, when the horse is here in Hong Kong, there’s a good chance he’ll get back on.”

Senor Toba’s Centenary Vase win – he crossed the finishing line three quarters of a length ahead of light-weighted $2.4 favourite Running Glory, with Ka Ying Star another half a length back in third – was his first victory in a race over less than 2,000m since he broke his maiden in a Moonee Valley mile.

“It was a good performance,” Fownes said of Senor Toba’s third win from 12 Hong Kong starts and fifth victory from 18 career appearances.

Hugh Bowman and Caspar Fownes receive their Centenary Vase spoils.

“He showed us in his trial he was going to give us a nice run. It’s definitely on the sharp side for him, but it’s nice when these types of horses win a race like that under handicap conditions.

“This was a nice lead-up race [for Qatar]. The extra 600m – he’s going to eat that up. I’m very happy. Hopefully, he pulls up well. The plan is to fly out on [February 9].”

The Centenary Vase was the first event in which Senor Toba had competed without head gear since he was fifth behind California Spangle in last term’s Classic Cup (1,800m) under Moreira.

Fownes explained why he removed the visor from Senor Toba’s gear and reiterated his belief in the stayer.

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“In the early days, he needed a bit of focus, a bit of help adjusting to Hong Kong,” Fownes said.

“He’s maturing into the horse I think he’s going to be. I’ve always said he’s a Group One horse. He’s going to get there. He’s going to win some good races going forward, that’s for sure. He’s still developing. We’ve got some good times ahead of us.”

Senor Toba was the second of Bowman’s winners at Sha Tin on Sunday. The rider celebrated his first meeting since the Jockey Club extended his licence until the end of this season by saluting the judge aboard not only Senor Toba but also We Are Hero for Manfred Man Ka-leung.