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Joao Moreira starts jockeys’ championship fightback with dominant night at Happy Valley

The pendulum in the jockeys’ championship race could just have started to swing in Joao Moreira’s favour after the Brazilian outscored Zac Purton 4-1 at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.

Moreira had not ridden more winners than Purton at any of the five meetings since he returned from suspension in late February and he went into this Valley fixture eight behind his big rival.

After Purton recorded his 50th Happy Valley winner of the season when saluting aboard Viva Mama in the opening Class Five Selkirk Handicap (1,000m), Moreira could have been forgiven for again fearing the worst but he headed for home in a jovial mood after a fantastic four-timer.

“I was quite confident I was going to have a good day because I had good rides,” Moreira said. “Four is always a good number and I’m very happy with that. This builds confidence going into the Derby and hopefully I can repeat on Sunday.”

Not for the first time the Brazilian jockey was also the toast of punters with all four of his winners coming aboard favourites.

Eason was well backed in the run-up to the Class Three Chester Handicap (1,200m), eventually being sent off at $1.7, and Moreira always had the improving three-year-old well positioned before coming around the pacesetters turning into the straight and beating the Purton-ridden Stock Legend by an easy two and a half lengths.

Trained by Frankie Lor Fu-chuen, who will put a saddle on Fa Fa and Money Catcher in the BMW Hong Kong Derby this weekend, Eason has now won two of his first five and never finished worse than runner-up.

Lor and Moreira had struck earlier on the card when Like That made all the running to easily win the second section of the Class Four Hereford Handicap (1,200m).

Like That’s last 12 runs had come at Class Three level and he clearly appreciated dropping a grade, returning to the winner’s enclosure for the first time since contesting his last Class Four race in January 2021.

Moreira’s first winner came aboard the John Size-trained Diamond Star, who finally broke his maiden tag at the 24th time of asking when easily winning the Class Five Wiltshire Handicap (1,650m).

The first four home in this race were the four at the foot of the weights and all were maidens heading into this contest.

‘Old fella’ Moreira ready to rumble after ‘very expensive holiday’

Moreira followed that up by coming from a long way back aboard Packing Famous, who showed a good turn of foot to win the Class Four Renfrew Handicap (1,800m).

The four-year-old appreciated the step up to 1,800m for the first time and his two-length win over King Dragon now leaves him on the cusp of Class Three company and he potentially looks a stayer to follow going forward.

Danny Shum Chap-shing, trainer of Packing Famous, will head into the Derby full of confidence that his stable remains in good form and with hope that Romantic Warrior can reverse the Classic Cup result on California Spangle in the prestigious four-year-old contest.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Jockey Club has announced that the usual movement of horses between Sha Tin and Conghua will be cancelled to allow for a comprehensive coronavirus testing regime in Shenzhen.

“To cooperate with Shenzhen authorities during the lockdown to allow for universal testing, the club has cancelled cross border horse movement previously scheduled for March 17 and March 18,” the club said in a statement.

“Upon the completion of the universal testing exercise in Shenzhen this Sunday, the club is hopeful that cross border horse movement will resume on Tuesday [March 22].

“Impact to Sunday’s Derby Day race meeting is minimal. The Wednesday [March 23] race meeting at Happy Valley will be restricted to horses currently based at Sha Tin.”

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