Joao Moreira continues to tick off the milestones and he brought up his 1,200th winner in Hong Kong under the lights at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Only Douglas Whyte and Zac Purton had previously managed to hit such heights in the city but the Magic Man clearly isn’t one for keeping score, as he had no idea he was just two away from bringing up another significant landmark.
“I wasn’t counting,” Moreira said. “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 [a mark like this].
“I wouldn’t be sitting on that number without the support of a lot of people and not in even in my wildest dreams could I have had those dreams before I came over to Hong Kong.”
It was the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Natural Storm who got the honour of providing Moreira with his 1,200th win when landing the Class Four Murray Handicap (2,200m) and the Brazilian was hard on his mount from a long way out.
Punters would have been hard pressed to call the $3.1 favourite the winner turning for home but Moreira was strong in the saddle and Natural Storm stayed on willingly to beat Winning Volatility by three-quarters of a length.
Moreira, who ended the night level with Zac Purton at the top of the jockeys’ championship after beating the Aussie star 2-1 on the night, was also successful in the opening race on the card when the ultra-consistent Whizz Kid took out the Class Three Connaught Handicap (1,000m).
That was the Tony Cruz-trained runner’s third win in his past five starts and he showed his customary early dash to burn off the finishing kick of the rest of the field and win by two lengths, rewarding punters who had backed him down to $1.7 favourite.
Cruz was delighted with the win and spoke warmly of his young sprinter, who seems to be improving with every race.
“I love this horse, his character is fantastic,” Cruz said. “The only worry is that he keeps on putting on weight, so I’m going to have to gallop him in the off-season to keep him in shape.
“He loves Happy Valley and the Sha Tin straight course over 1,000m, but I’m sure he’ll get further in the future. Joao said everything went great, everything was perfect, so I’m very happy.”
The form out of this season’s four-year-old series received its first knock when Money Catcher, who finished third in the Classic Cup and Hong Kong Derby, was turned over as the $2.4 favourite in the Class Two Chater Handicap (1,800m).
There seemed to be no excuses for Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s runner, who was perfectly placed on the quarters of front-runner Telecom Fighters in a race run outside standard but looked one-paced to finish third behind the swooping Charity Go.
“I didn’t expect him to win but I’m very happy that he did,” trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing said of $17.95 chance Charity Go.
“He had a good run and he seems to get along well with [jockey] Matthew Poon [Ming-fai]. Everything worked out well tonight. His best distance is 1,800m and he showed that tonight.”
Dylan Mo Hin-tung has won only twice since December 5 and both of those victories have come on Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Multimore, who won the Class Four Ice House Handicap (1,000m).
Yung inherited this runner from Cruz and has transformed his fortunes with two wins in three starts. The win brought up a double for Yung, who had earlier saluted with Humble Steed, and the trainer is now just two victories behind last season’s tally of 32.
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