Racing

Moreira crosses the century mark again

But the three-time HK champion has taken a slower time to achieve it

Jockey Joao Moreira brought up a century of winners for the fourth consecutive season at Sha Tin on Wednesday night, reaching the milestone with a win in the night's feature, the Class 2 Victoria Racing Club Trophy Handicap over 1,650m, aboard Divine Boy.

Two races later, the Brazilian rider made it 101 aboard the John Size-trained Remarkable, who weaved through to take the Class 4 Shek O Handicap over 1,650m, remaining unbeaten on the dirt.

The Me Tsui-trained Divine Boy charged home to beat odds-on favourite Calculation by three-quarters of a length, allowing Moreira to smash through what he calls a "mental block" of a figure.

"It's always been a number, 100, where I've struggled once I've approached it. I have found it hard to go past it," said Moreira.

"That's been the case for quite some time, whether at home, in Singapore or here. I really noted it five or six years ago in Singapore when Leticia Dragon, one of the trainers down there, made a comment about it. She's absolutely right, too - I hit a flat spot."

It has been a slower season for Moreira than when he reached his record marks of 145 (2014/15), 168 (2015/16) and 170 (2016/17) the last three years.

Not that the three-time champion jockey is setting his sights that high, though, as he engages in a duel with his predecessor as champion, Zac Purton, for this year's crown - Purton, winless on Wednesday night, remains on 93.

"It's going to be a tight battle this season, so I'm just happy to have reached 100 wins," he said. "Hopefully, from now I can continue to build momentum, I'm going to need it."

Divine Boy has proven an interesting exhibit of the Hong Kong handicap system at play. Considered a potential stakes-class sprinter early in his career, he even managed to finish seventh - four lengths from Chautauqua and ahead of horses like Aerovelocity, Mongolian Saturday, Thewizardofoz, Peniaphobia and Buffering - in the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize over 1,200m two years ago.

"He started to lose his speed when he turned five so we tried him over further," said Tsui.

"Then we gave him a go on the dirt a few times last season and he always ran well. This became his best course and distance."

Now a six-year-old, Divine Boy finally managed to score over the Sha Tin dirt 1,650m in October, racing clear for a three-and-a-quarter-leng win.

However, a bleeding attack in January kept him off the sidelines until he returned to the races on Wednesday night.

"Mr Tsui has got this horse in great order," said Moreira.

"The freshen-up has done him the world of good. He's not an easy horse to ride, but fortunately, things went his way when he got to the outside. He was able to build momentum and he's got very good acceleration when they go hard, like they did today." - HKJC

HORSE RACING