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EXCLUSIVE | ‘I am not OK’: Joao Moreira asks to return to his family in Brazil

Hong Kong’s riding great is suffering mental stress as he works through painful physical rehabilitation far from his family.

Joao Moreira met with Hong Kong Jockey Club officials on Thursday and has asked to return home to Brazil as soon as possible to be with his family, citing mental stress. The Club’s Licensing Committee will decide whether or not he is able to retain his licence while he continues his physical rehabilitation in Brazil. 

Moreira is walking with a stick. His problematic hip has been painful since undergoing Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy last week, a natural part of the healing process. Worse than that discomfort though is the isolation of being alone in Hong Kong, unable to ride and his family thousands of miles away in Brazil. It is affecting his mental wellbeing.

“Right now I think the best thing for me and my family is to be back in Brazil with them,” he told Asian Racing Report.

Moreira’s wife Taciana and their two children moved back to Brazil last June and the jockey is seeking to return not only to them but also his 77-year-old mother and his extended family. He wants to be around his seven siblings and their families in his home city of Curitiba, while he continues regular physiotherapy on his hip.  

“Back home we all get together every weekend. It is a place where there are people you want to be around, I just miss it too much,” he said. “I miss interacting with people, it is very meaningful to me; I know there are a lot of people here that love and support me, but I want to be with those people in Brazil. 

“I have great support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club but being at home with family is the most important thing to me right now. This is a difficult time and being with them is what I need.” 

I have great support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club but being at home with family is the most important thing to me right now.

The four-time Hong Kong champion jockey provided HKJC officials a supporting letter from a medical professional to back his request.  He will decide on his riding future in the next three months.     

“It just proves that I’m a human being, I’m vulnerable and I’m not made of steel,” he continued. “I’m grateful for everything the Jockey Club has given me but it has only been two weeks since I stopped riding and it feels like it has been two years. I have been closed up between four walls, and not feeling like going out, and all I have been doing is focusing on my recovery.”

Moreira went on record a year ago about the mental stress and depression he experienced while battling through injuries and loss of confidence during the 2020-21 championship-winning season. He is struggling once more.

“I can’t read, my focus disappears, I am watching TV and I can see it, but I can’t remember what I have just watched because my mind is somewhere else.” he said. 

“I am not OK, I need a different environment and different support, I need to be where I am loved. I need to feel that love from my family.”


Joao Moreira and Neorealism after the pair combined to win the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)

As well as the ongoing problem with his hip in the past couple of seasons, the Brazilian suffered chest pains – found to be a heart issue related to stress – during racing at Happy Valley in June, which saw him miss the best part of two meetings. 

The subsequent treatment he received on his hip during the offseason in Brazil meant that he did not return to Hong Kong until after the current season had started, but he lasted only two meetings before the ‘ten out of ten’ pain in his hip again forced him to the sidelines.

Moreira first received Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy in October 2020 but has said previously that he returned to race riding too soon afterwards. 

In late August he was given an intra-articular injection of cortisone and hyaluronic acid in Brazil and another injection again after his first race meeting back in Hong Kong. Last Thursday he underwent further PRP as he seeks to regain pain-free mobility.

“The treatment aggravates the joint to start with,” he revealed. “I was under a lot of pain but it has improved significantly… I got up to the stage where I can’t complain about the pain anymore. The treatment has been successful and it is getting better day by day.

“The treatment done on me aggravated the pain, so the pain raised even higher: I could ride a horse, but once the PRP was done I couldn’t walk properly. It wasn’t as painful the first time I received the treatment in 2020 as this time, I didn’t have the labrum tear and cartilage damage then. The cartilage had degenerated and gotten worse.”

Joao Moreira, riding Lucky Gor (inside), is edged out by Lyle Hewitson on Pretty Queen Prawn in one of his final rides before he took an injury break. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit /Getty Images)

He is having regular physiotherapy treatment and is meeting with a HKJC-appointed psychologist. But his heart is still causing him concern. 

“It doesn’t hurt but it feels like a bubble coming up through my chest and it makes me lose my breath,” he said. “When I am under stress, it seems my body is reacting to the stress that way and it is putting me in a very uncomfortable situation.

“I will miss the doctors here (in Hong Kong) because they are good but I am confident in the doctors I can reach out to in Brazil.” 

Moreira could not say for certain what his riding future might look like. The desire to ride, though, is still there.

“Of course I want to ride. Am I able to ride? Right now? No, but hopefully after a couple of months I can. That is why I am working with these doctors for hours and hours per day, to get things right,” he said.

Speculation was rife around Hong Kong and beyond during the late summer as to whether or not Moreira would return to the city this season and speculation about his future has not stopped.

“It is amazing how many people want to make decisions for me … people speculating on my future. That is my decision to make, it hasn’t been made. I wish people would stop trying to play guessing games about my future. The fact is that this is the situation and I will decide. 

I wish people would stop trying to play guessing games about my future.

“I don’t read the news about me, because it would just make me angry, but people tell me, and it seems that people want to decide my future for me. 

“That decision hasn’t been made, I just don’t know.” 

It is nine years this month since Moreira made the move from Singapore to Hong Kong and took the jurisdiction by storm. After a truncated first season punctuated by suspensions, he proceeded to rattle off three championships on the bounce, smashing records along the way and posting season totals that no jockey before had ever dreamed of. 

Joao Moreira after winning the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup on Beat The Clock. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit/Getty Images)

His first championship season brought 145 wins, a tally that obliterated the 13-time champion Douglas Whyte’s record total of 114 wins in a season; Moreira’s best ever haul was 170 in the 2016-17 campaign. 

In June 2018 he shocked the Jockey Club when he withdrew his licence application for the following season and moved to Japan. After another spectacular summer there, his failure to pass the JRA licensing test saw him return to Hong Kong as stable jockey to John Size.

He was runner-up to Zac Purton in the Hong Kong Premiership for three straight seasons after his aborted Japan move before regaining the title in 2021. But his long-term injuries continued to affect his performances last season as he again finished second to Purton.  

“I need to go home with a clear mind and make a decision,” he added. “It is still possible that I will ride again one day.”



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