Horse Racing
Moreira's faith in Premiere, Top Beautiful among Saturday's smart prospects

By David Morgan
15/09/2017 15:02

Premiere earned top rookie honours in Hong Kong last term and jockey Joao Moreira hopes Saturday’s (16 September) feature race at Sha Tin, the Class 2 Chinese Recreation Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1000m), will kick off a career-defining sophomore season.

Premiere completes a hat-trick of wins last term with Joao Moreira on board at Happy Valley.
Premiere completes a hat-trick of wins last term with Joao Moreira on board at Happy Valley.

The four-year-old is one of a handful of smart prospects Moreira will partner on the 10-race card, a group that includes the talked-up Top Beautiful and Travel Emperor.

“Premiere can take another step forward and this season is when we’ll see the best of him,” Moreira said of the Champion Griffin. That title is awarded to the best of the season’s young gallopers not to have raced pre-import.

The John Size-trained four-year-old proved resilient and progressive through a 12-race campaign that yielded a hat-trick of 1000m wins at Happy Valley. The gelding’s rating rose 30 points to his current mark of 82, which puts him into the weekend feature with a featherweight 116lb.

“It’s Class 2, it’s a tough race, he’s in against good horses, but he’s shown that he’s a good horse, too,” Moreira said. “He’s shown he has the ability to run well in a race like this.”

Premiere’s latest effort was back in mid-June, a close second under 133lb in a Valley 1000m dash.

“He’s fresh after a good summer break and I think, with the light weight on his back, he’s a really good chance,” Moreira said.

The 14-runner trophy race also features Country Melody (123lb), a former stablemate of Premiere but now under the watch of Size’s former assistant Frankie Lor. The new handler has enjoyed a sharp start to his debut season with three wins already on the board and Saturday’s rider Brett Prebble believes Country Melody is well-placed to increase Lor’s tally.

“I don’t think it’s an overly strong race so if Country Melody brings that run from Happy Valley first-up he’d be ultra-competitive in it,” the Australian said.

Country Melody ran home a solid third behind Convincible over 1200m at Happy Valley nine days ago. The six-year-old has often saved his best for the city track but also has three Sha Tin 1000m wins to his name, albeit in his younger days.

“He ran well the other day, he hit the line strongly,” Prebble observed. “The only concern would be if the track’s a bit firmer, he appreciates the bit of give at Happy Valley.”

The field also features the talented Me Tsui-trained galloper Adventurer (126lb), returning to the course and distance at which he has registered all four career wins.

Beautiful prospects

Moreira is excited to be climbing back aboard the Chris So-trained Top Beautiful (120lb) in race nine, the Class 3 Tailorbird Handicap (1000m), also down the straight. The Brazilian ace enjoyed a dream ride when the Nicconi gelding debuted with an easy win on the season’s opening day.

Top Beautiful scores at the opening meeting this season.
Top Beautiful scores at the opening meeting this season.

“He really is beautiful,” Moreira enthused. “He’s gone through a very good progression: Chris So has done a very good job with him.

“When he won first-up, I was expecting it because he was giving such a good feeling at track work,” he continued. “I’ve galloped him a couple of times and he hasn’t let us down. 

“The way he did it first time, you’d think he can go out in Class 2 and do it again, particularly as he’s carrying a light weight. He’s a horse to keep an eye on, not just for this but going forward, too.”

Moreira was more cautious about another youngster that sparkled on career debut, the now twice-raced Travel Emperor (114lb). Danny Shum’s charge is slated to line up in race eight, the Class 3 Swallow Handicap (1200m), and has something to prove after losing his unbeaten tag when sixth over the course and distance at the season opener.

“I was disappointed with his last run because I rated him as a very nice horse,” Moreira said. “I still think that, but his last couple of gallops he’s felt that he’s stagnated to a level right now, rather than kept improving. He hasn’t gone that extra step that I expected at this stage.”

Despite that disappointment, the record-breaking rider stressed that Travel Emperor is in good shape overall.

“He’s been working well enough, mind you, his action is fine, his condition is good, but he’s just a little bit too aggressive - it’s his temperament, he’s a tough type of horse. If he can show his best, I have no doubt he can win in Class 3 with a light weight.”

Travel Emperor is set to face 11 rivals, including another lightly-raced individual, the Ricky Yiu-trained Fantastic Eight (124lb). The four-year-old bookended a five-race debut campaign last term with wins in Class 4 and Class 3, rising 19 points to a mark of 71. All starts have been at 1200m and the gelding is yet to finish out of the first two.

Umberto Rispoli was in the plate for that latest win and is booked to maintain the partnership.

“He’s a nice horse and he’s improved a lot since last season,” the Italian said. “He had a nice barrier trial, I was very happy with that. He has a wide draw tomorrow (11), but I hope he has enough speed to cope with that and cross the field.

“I find him more mature this season, he looks much better. He might need this first start of the season, but, what he’s showing me in the morning, he’ll be very interesting as we go through the rest of the season. It’s early to say just how good he might be but he’s carrying a solid weight and this will give us a good idea.”

Saturday’s action starts at 1pm with the Class 4 Cuckoo Handicap (1200m) and concludes with the Class 3 Woodpecker Handicap (1400m) at 5.45pm.