JOAO MOREIRA is the ‘Magic Man’ with the tricks of the track to conjure up more glory.
Brazilian ace Moreira, nicknamed Magic Man for his unbelievable exploits in the saddle, is the Far East’s very own Frankie — and is just four wins away from becoming only the third rider in history to win 1,000 races in Hong Kong.
And he reckons the likes of Ryan Moore and Pierre-Charles Boudot could be caught out by the tricky circuit and power-packed pace of the action at the multi-million pound Hong Kong International Races, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Moreira, 36, has been riding in Hong Kong for eight years and said: “The racing out here is very fast, the tracks are very fast and can be hard to ride.
“Tactics play a big part and sometimes horses and jockeys who come over can find themselves out of their comfort zone.
“If you want to win out here, you have to bring your A-game. If you don’t you’ll be going home crying — it’s very tough!”
Certainly Moreira has kicked off the Hong Kong season at breakneck speed.
After narrowly missing out to Zac Purton as top rider last year, he has made it his mission to lift the crown this time.
He is currently 20 ahead of his great rival in this season’s jockeys’ title race, with 51 wins to Aussie ace Purton’s 31, and is determined to showcase his talents at the glittering Sha Tin meeting.
He added: “I had a plan before the season — I was going to work hard, focus more and be into the whole thing more.
“I think I’m more determined this time.
“Zac has been a great rival and it has been fantastic for the racing here. We’ve helped push each other in a good way. It’s always about the support jockeys can get, as we don’t get stable retainers.
“So when you get those nice horses like the ones I’ve found this season, you’ve got to be happy, but more importantly you have to make good use of it too.”
Nice horses are not in short supply in Hong Kong and Moreira — who won two of the big Group 1s on this day last year — has four live chances in the big races.
And he cannot wait.
He said: “It’s the big one that’s for sure, the one all us jockeys look forward to for a few months. The adrenaline starts to get going, you get that feeling in your stomach and I just love this game!”
Sprinter Hot King Prawn might be the most likely to cook up a winner for him, but with Furore and Waikuku also in the mix, Moreira’s season could get hotter still.
Moreira said: “Hot King Prawn has been such a great horse, very consistent and tries his heart out every time he goes out.
“We have Classique Legend coming over from Australia and on paper he’s the most impressive in the race. But if someone is going to beat him I think Hot King Prawn would be the one.”
Furore takes on Ballydoyle’s globetrotting mare Magical in the £1.5million Hong Kong Cup in what looks the best race of the meeting.
Moreira added: “Furore’s last win was very impressive. I thought he might be good enough, but the way he won I couldn’t have seen that coming. I thought ‘wow he’s going to be going to HKIR in great form’.
“The international horses are here, but I’m positive and we’re on our home turf. The horse has had the perfect preparation. Whoever is coming over needs to worry about our house — not the other way around.”
Sha Tin usually attracts a bumper crowd of 80,000 for this meeting but a FOURTH wave of Covid has pushed racing behind closed doors again.
Moreira admits he will miss the noise and atmosphere the Hong Kong punters are famous for. He said: “The grandstands are normally packed here — so not having the racegoers here is very strange.
“I’m looking forward to their return. But everyone has been great here, the Hong Kong Jockey Club has been very professional and we’ve kept racing the whole time. Others have copied us and that says a lot.”
Plenty of Brits followed Happy Valley and Sha Tin when racing was shut down in the UK and will have seen Moreira totting up the winners.
But will we ever get to see him in the flesh, racing in Britain?
Moreira laughed: “No one is going anywhere at the moment!
“One day I hope to spend some time riding in Europe. I hope I get the opportunity. I don’t have a set plan but, who knows, we will see!
“I see Frankie is about to turn 50 — I hope he hangs around long enough to take on the real Magic Man!”
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