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‘Happy’ Moreira is back among the winners and heading to Hong Kong

The Magic Man competed in 16 races over two days in Brazil and is ready for Group 1 action at Sha Tin after sealing a Listed race win at his hometown track on Sunday.

Joao Moreira has told Asian Racing Report that he is in the right shape to ride at the Hong Kong International Races next weekend.

The four-time Hong Kong champion jockey was back among the winners on Sunday in Brazil, riding the mare La Célia to victory in the Listed Clássico Ciro Frere at Hipódromo Tarumã in his home city of Curutiba, Brazil.

The Brazilian ace had ten rides on the 12-race card as he continued his preparation to ride at the Group 1 fixture, one day after he returned to race-riding for the first time in two and a half months at Sao Paulo, where he had four seconds from six rides.

Moreira last savoured a winner on July 13 at Sha Tin but had ridden in only 25 races between then and La Célia’s success in the sixth race at the Jockey Club do Paraná’s December 4 fixture.

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Joao Moreira with the winning connections of La Célia. (Photo by Jockey Club do Paraná)

The rider – also a multiple champion jockey in Brazil and Singapore – left Hong Kong in September after riding at just two meetings this season, as he recovered from platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment on a debilitating hip injury. He revealed two weeks ago that the international races at Sha Tin next weekend would be his ‘goodbye’ to Hong Kong as he embarks on a sixth-month ‘tour’ before retiring from the global racing scene.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has licensed Moreira for that day but he must pass a medical on Tuesday before being cleared as fit to compete. 

“I feel happy to be back in the saddle and very happy to be back in the winner’s circle,” Moreira said from the airport as he began his journey to Hong Kong.

“Physically, there’s no doubt I’m better than before, all treatment that I’ve done in the last 60 days has all worked positively on me. I still have a little bit more fitness to build up and I’ll be working every day between now and the international races on Sunday to make sure I’m feeling the best I can. The races in Hong Kong will be very exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”

The rider, known in Brazil as O Fantasma, had to work hard in the run to earn victory in Curitiba. Moreira found himself outpaced through the early stages of the 1200-metre contest but kept his mount honest. Racing wide down the home straight, La Célia responded to a strong drive with a sustained effort that saw her swoop over the top of her rivals and nick the lead in the final strides for a head success.

“The mare’s (usual) jockey, he’s a work rider really, not a professional jockey, so I think she realised what a real jockey can do; Joao found the nearside and he was great,” said Ricardo Ravagnani, a Brazilian handicapper and broadcaster.

Moreira was on the wrong side of a narrow verdict in race nine, the Listed Clássico Primavera over 1800 metres, when he sent Lonnie for home early in the home straight only to be caught on the line, losing by a nose.

Heavy rainfall after race six meant that the last four races, all scheduled for turf, were switched to the dirt track.

“Again, the rain affected the races,” said Ravagnani. “They had another storm and had to change to the turf; for example, in the last race, the filly Moreira rode, Mithrass, of course she’s a turf filly, so she had no chance.”

Moreira is booked to ride three Japanese challengers in the Group 1 races at Sha Tin. He will be reunited with the Silk Racing-owned Glory Vase in the Hong Kong Vase, and the duo will be seeking a third win in the 2400-metre contest; his other two rides, both owned by the Carrot Club, are Resistencia in the Hong Kong Sprint and Lei Papale in the Hong Kong Cup.

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