Sports

Moreira's heart is with Singapore

Leader in Hong Kong jockey's premiership loves everything about the Republic

Joao Moreira's riding career may be soaring to even dizzier heights in Hong Kong but the grounded and humble Brazilian jockey let in his heart still remain with the place that launched him into racing stratosphere - Singapore.

The current leader in the Hong Kong jockey's premiership (41 versus Zac Purton's 29 wins) is arguably the name that pops up most often in bar conversations about the "world's best", and why shouldn't he be? To many, the man they dub "Magic" just has that knack at extracting the best of any horse, be it a Group 1-winning machine or a Class 5 cellar-dweller.

His "have saddle, will travel" attitude is second to none and more often than not, the price of his business class air-ticket is recouped manifold on the track.

Right now, the racing world is just simply abuzz about Moreira, and yet, here he was, with the world at his feet, all choked up when he reminisced about his four-and-a-half years (2009 to 2013) in Singapore where he started right from the bottom rung as a virtual unknown from far-flung Parana in Brazil.

After all, it's not for any reason he has named his one-year-old daughter Marina after one of the Republic's most recognisable icons.

"I miss Singapore. It's the place that made me who I am today," he said at Sha Tin. "My family misses it too. My daughter is too small to remember, but I named her after Marina Bay Sands, and that will be with her forever.

SO SPECIAL

"I just love everything about the country. The racing is so good and competitive, but it's also about the people, the friends I made there, they were just so special.

"Hong Kong is great too, but I have made friends in Singapore a lot more quickly in the first year there than the first year I spent here."

Moreira said his wife Taciana and two children Miguel and Marina (who was born in Singapore last year) have settled in well in the former British colony, though there are some Singapore perks he wished he had brought over to his new home.

"Here, all the jockeys stay at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's apartment, which is a great place and for which I'm very grateful," said the 31-year-old family man.

"But sometimes, I would rather be cut off from racing when I go home. That's why I liked Singapore where I had my own place away from Kranji."

When asked if he would one day come back for a long stint, Moreira smiled. "I am focused on Hong Kong now. I will come back and ride in Singapore whenever I can," said Moreira, not without a hint of getting the best of both worlds.

He will not speculate on any future ports of call, preferring to continue to make his mark in his new stomping ground, which he hopes to set alight this afternoon at the Longines Hong Kong International Races.

Moreira is itching to prove himself on such a stage, given he missed last year's edition through suspension, one of too many he copped at his rookie season, putting paid to any hopes of a first-up title bid. He eventually came up short by only 15 wins to settle for second place behind Purton, a startling feat given he also missed about two months of the 2013-2014 season.

GOOD CHANCES

"I missed last year's event because of suspension. This year, I have four rides in all four races and they all have good chances," said Moreira whose rides are Dominant (Vase), Sterling City (Sprint), Able Friend (Mile) and Designs On Rome (Cup), all for trainer John Moore.

"They have all drawn well except for Able Friend (11) in the Hong Kong Mile, but he's a very good horse and if he brings his best form, he will be hard to beat."

While pundits have made Able Friend, the last-start winner of the Mile trial, the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile as Moreira's best chance of his quartet, the pilot himself seems even more bullish about Designs On Rome, his mount in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup.

"To me, there is not much difference between the two horses. Designs On Rome was Horse Of The Year last season, but he did not have the best preparation at his last two runs," he said.

"I can tell you he's looking good for the job. He's at his best and it shows in his coat at trackwork. He'll put in a big run."

Moreira said Sterling City's last run should be overlooked as his Dubai Golden Shaheen winner was one of the luckless contenders in that famous Sprint trial that saw half the field either running into dead ends or getting poleaxed in the home straight, and said Dominant should not be written off as he had not been running over suitable distances this prep.

"I miss Singapore. It's the place that made me who I am today."

- Brazilian jockey Joao Moreira