Joao Moreira created racing history at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (6 April), reaching the 1,200-win milestone in Hong Kong record time, edging ever closer to Zac Purton in the intensifying battle for the 2021/22 jockeys’ championship after posting a double.
On a defining night for Moreira, the 38-year-old Brazilian became only the third jockey to slot 1,200 wins or more in Hong Kong behind Douglas Whyte (1,813) and arch-rival Purton (1,393), but the ‘Magic Man’ reached the mark quicker than either man.
Purton took 7,470 mounts to hit 1,200, while Whyte – Hong Kong’s all-time record-holder with 13 jockeys’ championships – reached the mark after 7,662 rides. Moreira’s success on Ricky Yiu’s Natural Storm in the Class 4 Murray Handicap (2200m) came aboard his 5,553rd mount in Hong Kong.
“I wouldn’t be sitting on that number (1,200) without the support of a lot of people,” Moreira beamed after opening the meeting with a race-to-race double. “Not in even in my wildest dreams, could I have those dreams, you know before I came over to Hong Kong.
“I wasn’t counting. I wasn’t aware that I was on 1,198 before the meeting and I didn’t come to the races thinking about it. It’s always good to reach the mark.”
Moreira moved to Hong Kong in October, 2013 and has since set a slew of records, including the most wins in a season (170 in 2016/17), most wins at a single Hong Kong meeting (eight on 5 March, 2017) and most prize money earned by a jockey in a single season (HK$215.30 million in 2020/21) as well as claiming the jockeys’ championship in 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2020/21).
Moreira’s latest haul leaves him level with fellow four-time champion Purton on wins for the season – 98 each – after the Australian closed the meeting by winning the Class 3 Des Voeux Handicap (1200m) atop Francis Lui’s Star Brite. Purton retains the overall championship lead because Moreira’s haul includes two dead-heats compared to Purton’s one dead-heat.
Moreira accelerated his charge from the outset with victory aboard talented Whizz Kid in the Class 3 Connaught Handicap (1000m) – the opening race of the card – with a victory which delighted trainer Tony Cruz.