Waikuku primed for Group One with drop in trip: Joao Moreira

Championship-leading jockey Joao Moreira believes Waikuku is primed to hit his straps and grab his second Group One next weekend, despite stepping down in trip for the first time in more than a year.

The six-year-old made headlines last season when he toppled Beauty Generation in the Group One Stewards’ Cup (1,600m) but was stopped in his tracks in the Champions Mile in April, prompting trainer John Size to put him away until the Hong Kong Mile in December.

Seemingly now back to his best, Waikuku will have his best chance to add another Group One win to his resume next week in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m), where he will take on just eight rivals.

Despite not racing over 1,400m since October 2019, Moreira has no concerns about dropping back in trip for the HK$12 million feature.

“I think it is OK, he has good speed from the gate to be close enough,” he said. “He just needs to run up to his best because he is up to the class, it is the same horses he has been running against most days.

“If he performs at his best, he could be the one.”

Moreira trialled Waikuku on Tuesday morning against the likes of Golden Sixty and Ka Ying Star and the Brazilian feels confident in his condition.

He is in good shape, good form and he’s now had two runs this season so he should be fit so I am expecting him to perform very well.”

First, Moreira is looking to continue his connection with the improving Stock Legend at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.

The barrier rogue has been his own worst enemy during his brief career but his issues could be a thing of the past after Moreira revealed he answered a SOS from trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai to help him get out of the gates.

The four-year-old sprang to prominence in October after winning at Happy Valley despite hopelessly missing the start. He then backed that up three weeks ago with another easy win.

“I have actually done a lot of work on him,” Moreira said. “Francis asked me to help out and I was more than happy to sit on the horse because I think he is a good horse.

“He was just doing a few things wrong, particularly at the start when he would jump out towards the outside.

“Doing that work has been good because I understand what kind of horse I will ride at the races so I know what to expect.”

After giving Stock Legend a final hit-out earlier in the week, Moreira believes the galloper may have turned a corner when it comes to his manners in the gates.

“To be honest, lately he hasn’t been doing anything wrong,” he said. “It appears he might do but then we correct him and put him on the right path – he has been responding well.”

Stock Legend races in the Class Four Orchid Handicap (1,200m), where he will look to notch up his third consecutive win.

“We did another piece of work down at the gates with him two days ago and he did well,”

Moreira said.

“If he brings what he has been showing us to the races I think he will be straightforward. Even though the gate [12] doesn’t help us very much, I still believe he is good enough to win the race.”

Moreira has a full book of nine rides on the night which also features the likes of Kurpany and Wealthy Delight.

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