By David Morgan
Joao Moreira and Danny Shum teamed up to clinch the first feature race of Hong Kong’s new season at Sha Tin on Sunday thanks to Lucky Year in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup. Jockey and trainer will attempt to back-up at Happy Valley’s curtain-raiser tomorrow night (Wednesday, 7 September) when King Of Mongolia will line-up in the showcase Community Chest Cup (Handicap).
“King Of Mongolia’s chance is pretty good,” said the Champion Jockey. “He’s very lucky to get the draw (1) he has and he has every chance from there. He’s going to have fresh legs, having his first race of the season, so I’m quite excited about how he’s going to go.”
Moreira was in the plate for King Of Mongolia’s course and distance triumph in March and was back in tandem recently for a positive barrier trial ahead of Wednesday’s Class 3 1650m contest.
Shum was the leading trainer at Happy Valley last campaign and the Moreira/Shum axis has a strong look to it for the city track’s first meeting of 2016/17. The duo will also team up with Super Sprinter, in race four, the Shun Lee Handicap (1650m), and Lucky Profit, in race seven, the Wah Fu Handicap (1200m).
“Super Sprinter is going well, he was very unlucky last time,” said Moreira. “Lucky Profit, I have ridden him to win four times at 1200 metres at Happy Valley and, even though I think he feels like he will be better over a mile, he goes in fresh and has a good chance.”
Despite Sunday’s feature race win on Lucky Year, the season opener was muted for Moreira with one win from 10 leaving him a long way south of the 25% win strike rate he posted across last season, which carried him to a record 168 wins.
The champ appears to have a solid book of rides on Wednesday though, as he aims to avoid the rare blank night he experienced at the corresponding Happy Valley fixture last term. Among those is Mr Bogart, a horse that could cap what Moreira hopes will be a successful evening this time around.
The John Moore-trained galloper was G2-placed as a juvenile in Australia and found his Hong Kong feet in three outings late last season, culminating with a smart victory over 1200m at Sha Tin. Moreira had a good view of the winner that day as he chased in vain atop the runner-up, Eroico. The champ partnered Mr Bogart in an eye-catching barrier trial at Happy Valley last week and will be in the plate for Wednesday’s Class 2 Yau Oi Handicap (1200m).
“He felt great in the trial, he felt like he will handle Happy Valley really well,” said Moreira. “Even if he’s carrying a little bit of condition, he feels like he’s probably still ready to win. He hasn’t been over-used, he has fresh legs and I think he’s a really good chance.”
Trainer John Moore echoed Moreira’s opinion: “I was really pleased with the trial. We needed to trial him because he’s a big boy but he negotiated those corners really well. Joao was very enthusiastic about the trial and we’re going in there on Wednesday from a good gate (3). It seems that he’s the one to beat.
“He’s shown good improvement since the end of last season and I expect him to go very close,” Moore continued. “At this stage of the season the horses aren’t 100 percent fit, the track only opened in August, so they’re going to need it; so whatever he does, there’ll be lots of improvement. I expect him to make his way up to Class 1 this season, no problem.”
Elsewhere on the card, Zac Purton will get the leg-up on another lightly-raced galloper with an impressive recent trial under the belt, the Caspar Fownes-trained Victory Marvel. The four-year-old showed ability in four outings last season without success and cruised to a smart barrier trial verdict on 30 August leading into the Class 4 Oi Man Handicap over 1200m (race five).
“His trial was nice,” said the former champion jockey. “He jumped out and showed nice speed, he travelled well and gave a nice kick in the straight, so I would have thought of that trial that he’ll go to the races and be competitive.
“He’s drawn awkwardly (9), so he’ll need some luck going into the first corner but if he happens to lob in the right spot he’s right in the race. The majority of horses that have a few starts in their first season and then have the benefit of the break, they usually come back better the next season, so hopefully that’s the case for him, too.”
Wednesday’s exciting eight-race card kicks off at 7.15pm with the Cheung Hong Handicap (1200m). The concluding Yau Oi Handicap is scheduled off at 10.50pm.
King Of Mongolia (no.6) wins the Green Land Handicap over a mile at Happy Valley last term with Joao Moreira on board.
Mr Bogart claims a smart victory over 1200m at Sha Tin on his latest outing.