Horse Racing
A magic four-timer is just the tonic for Moreira

By David Morgan
30/05/2019 00:26

Joao Moreira celebrates Waldorf’s remarkable win in the finale.
Joao Moreira celebrates Waldorf’s remarkable win in the finale.

Joao Moreira bagged an improbable four-timer at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 29 May), his second in as many meetings.

Moreira had been a doubt to even make it to the track, but having shrugged off sickness, the Magic Man made hay. He even turned miracle worker in the finale, the Class 3 Tan Shan River Handicap (1200m), driving the outpaced Waldorf from detached tail-ender to charging victor.

“I thought we had no chance,” he said. “I was pushing him all the way through, riding him for luck in the hope that he might finish off, and there was a point in the race where I really thought he was gone – I was pushing and pushing. But when we approached the 600 metres he closed up and I could see that they were going fast in front.

“When we turned for home and I gave him two whacks, whoosh! I knew then, if he had no interruption, I was going to win.”

The Tony Cruz-trained top-weight completed a hat-trick of wins, charging through the line a neck in front of the field on ground rated good.

“I didn’t think I was going to win four races,” Moreira continued. “I got a virus and I had a fever yesterday and the day before. I had a lot of headache and doubted that I would make it but the doctor looking after me did a good job and got me well enough to ride today.” Moreira said.

True Grit storms wide on the track for Moreira

The Brazilian was on the mark one race prior for his retainer, John Size. True Grit (118lb) notched his third win on the bounce with a willing drive down the stands’ side, scoring by a length and a quarter from Universal Go Go (113lb) at odds of 1.8.

“He’s not doing things perfectly – he can be a bit cranky in the gate,” Moreira said. “Tonight, even if he was a bit cranky, it wasn’t enough for him to mess it up at the start.

“Once he jumped well and landed in the position, I was confident he would be hard to beat. He’s a nice horse and when I pulled him out for a clear run he let down for me beautifully. I don’t think that’s it for him either, I think there’s some more to come.”

The three-time Hong Kong champion combined with trainer Me Tsui for a brace earlier on the card. A fine pace-setting ride guided Very Sweet Orange to success, dropped into Class 5 for the first time.

The pair followed up with the 23/1 shot Forza Angel, who opened his Hong Kong account in the Class 3 Nam Chung River Handicap thanks to an astute Moreira ride.

“Me Tsui’s a good trainer – well done to him,” Moreira said.

Purton’s on the cusp

Zac Purton wraps up a double on Perfect To Play.
Zac Purton wraps up a double on Perfect To Play.

Moreira’s quartet took him to 73 wins for the term. Ahead of him in the premiership, careering towards a third championship of his own, Zac Purton ended the night on 134, thanks to a double.

But the champ was unable to reach a new milestone. Purton began the evening HK$1,527,913 shy of Moreira’s 2015/16 all-time high single season earnings of HK$207,249,728.

That figure looked in peril with three races remaining on the card, with Purton having increased his total to within HK$142,163. But fourth place in the nightcap left the Australian still needing HK$59,363, a sum he will surely pocket during Sunday’s 11-race Sha Tin fixture.

The champ did take home an over-sized bottle of Chateau d’Arche after a canny mid-race move fired Perfect To Play to victory in the night’s trophy contest, the Class 4 Sauternes Cup Handicap (1650m).

“Zac has a clock in his head, he knows,” winning trainer Caspar Fownes said. “The horse is a bit of a quirky boy but we’ve got him racing really well, which is all you can ask for.

“He’s going to go up into Class 3 with a low weight so we’ll get Vincent (Ho) back on him. He’s done his job already but that’s the big test, if they can go up in class and down in weight and still show you something then you’re a chance to snag another race.

“He’s shown he’s handled the bit of sting out of the track. In the next six weeks we should have a few a tracks where there’s going to be a bit of give in it, so we’re alright.”

Zac Purton with a canny mid-race move on Perfect To Play

That success for Purton followed his win on the Peter Ho-trained Le Terroir, 1.3 favourite in the Class 4 Ho Chung River Handicap (1200m).

Five of Karis Teetan’s wins this season have come aboard the admirable Clement Legend. Danny Shum’s charge held the Purton-ridden runner-up Crown Avenue by three quarters of a length in the Class 4 Lam Tsuen River Handicap (2200m), rewarding favourite backers at odds of 3.8.

In the opening Class 4 Ho Chung River Handicap (1200m), Matthew Poon saved ground from gate two, producing a rail-running drive to land on the Ricky Yiu-trained Wonderful Journey.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 2 June.