Brazilian jockey Joao Moreira snared another little slice of Hong Kong history at Sha Tin on Sunday (9 July) as the rider broke the record for most winners in a season for the third term in a row.
Moreira partnered Me Tsui-trained Fantastic Show (117lb) to win the Chai Wan Road Plate (1200m) for griffins before adding the second section of the Class 3 Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road Handicap (1200m) on Peter Ho’s Sunny Win (126lb) to take his seasonal haul to 169 wins, one more than the 168 he accrued in 2015/16.
That 168 total broke Moreira’s own record of 145 from 2014/15, which in itself usurped Douglas Whyte’s previous mark of 114, set in 2005/06.
“It has been a very special season,” Moreira said. “It means a lot, it means that the hard work that I have put in this season has all been worth it. Records are there to be broken so it’s nice to get to do it again, although I’m sure there will be someone who comes along and breaks my records one day.”
The milestone win came on Sunny Win, who was heavily supported into 1.9 favouritism before scoring a comfortable length and a half success. Ho believes that the dirt race fell perfectly for the Northern Meteor gelding after he jumped from gate nine.
“The outside draw was a big help for him,” Ho said. “If he had drawn inside, I don’t think he could have won because he has a big stride and he doesn’t like kickback. Joao came back and said that he needs further so we still have the 1650m up our sleeve again next season, it’s just that there were no races for him now over the mile.”
“Obviously for Joao, it is a big thing getting the record, although I think it is just another winner for him! He has ridden plenty of them.”
Neil Callan and Keith Yeung shared riding honours with Moreira, both riding a double each.
Callan’s brace came in consecutive races, scoring the featured Class 4 Hong Kong Riding For The Disabled Association Cup Handicap (1600m) on Benno Yung’s Such A Happiness (132lb) before getting everything out of the consistent Harbour Alert (124lb) to give the Paul O’Sullivan trainee his first Hong Kong win at start 23 in the first section of the Class 3 Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road Handicap (1200m).
“He rarely runs a bad race, especially on the all-weather track, but he just needs everything to fall right for him to win,” Callan said. “I had to lift him over the line but he found for me and had his neck in front where it counted.”
Such A Happiness had recorded two second placings at his last four starts, but had struggled last time out from a wide gate under Matthew Poon. Yung said the return to a senior rider in Callan and a better draw allowed the Savabeel three-year-old to record his first win.
“Today, he was able to jump and land in a good position from gate five, rather than having to try and find one,” Yung said. “That made all the difference. He is still learning but he will be in Class 3 now, maybe he might even get to a four-year-old race next season.”
Yeung also teamed with Yung to take the last race, the Class 3 Lei Yue Mun Park Handicap (1400m), on Hong Kong debutant Coby Boy (124lb) in a 98/1 shock.
“I was expecting a big run from him, but I was not expecting him to win!” Yung said of the galloper formerly known as Flying Labelle in Australia. “He came with some nice form from Queensland but when he arrived, he was still doing a few things wrong in the mornings. When he was stuck deep today I thought he would struggle, but they went fast early and horses from the back couldn’t get into it. That suited him, as well as the two favourites going hard up in front. But it was a big performance anyway and it is always good to see them win like that first time out.”
Yeung’s earlier winner came on Almond Lee-trained Great Treasure (119lb) in the Class 4 Tuen Mun Public Riding School Handicap (1400m), giving the handler a race-to-race double after he prepared Unique Joyful (124lb) to win the Class 5 Lung Mun Road Handicap (1400m).
With only two meetings remaining in the season, much of the attention has already turned to the 2017/18 term. That is certainly the focus for trainer Ricky Yiu with three-year-old Encore Boy (131lb), who finally got on the board at his fifth Hong Kong start with his win in the Class 4 Lei Yue Mun Public Riding School Handicap (1000m).
“He’s still a bit immature and weak but he’s got talent, I think we know that,” Yiu said of the Zac Purton-ridden winner. “I think he’s still not ready to go around the turn but after giving him a couple of runs down the straight next season, I think naturally he’ll be ready for it. He’s very honest and he deserved that win today.”
Trainer John Size continued his own record-breaking season, taking his total to 93 wins as Giddy Giddy (122lb) scored his third win for the term, his second over the Sha Tin dirt 1200m, in the Class 4 Pok Fu Lam Public Riding School Handicap (1200m).
Rider Brett Prebble also returned to the Sha Tin winners’ circle aboard General Sherman in the Class 2 Pok Fu Lam Country Park Handicap (2000m), his first winner for trainer Tony Cruz in almost five years. General Sherman (119lb) edged out John Moore-trained pair Rocketeer (123lb) and Helene Charisma (133lb) in a thrilling finish to the day’s highest-rated race.
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (12 July) for the final eight races at the city track this season.
Source: The Hong Kong Jockey Club (Andrew Hawkins)