Team captains Joao Moreira and Luke Morris were among the jockeys who spoke to the media at Ascot today ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup on Saturday, 12 August.
On the eve of his third Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup appearance, Rest of the World captain Moreira revealed that his plan to quit the saddle later this year has been put on hold.
The Brazilian sensation has earned the nickname ‘Magic Man’ thanks to his exploits in the Far East, which included a record-breaking nine-year stint in Hong Kong that came to an end last year.
Moreira said: “It has been five years since I was last at Ascot – it feels like time has flown! It is nice to be back, it is such a beautiful place, the racecourse itself is amazing, and not least the riders I will be riding with – they are the best of the best.
“Being invited to the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup makes you feel proud of yourself. You are riding against some of the best jockeys in the world. For me, Frankie [Dettori] is the best jockey in the history of the sport. I have been watching him since I was an apprentice and, when I have the opportunity to ride with him, I am very proud.
“I think my greatest achievement is riding eight winners on a card in three different countries. That is the most difficult achievement of my career I would say. I would be very proud of winning just once on Saturday! It is so difficult to win and you need so much luck.”
On his decision to relinquish his Hong Kong license last year, he said: “I was struggling with hip injuries at the end of last year, which I am not over yet but there is no doubt that I am a lot better than I was. I was thinking about quitting riding but, once I started getting better, I felt I could push on for a bit longer.
“I have been riding in Brazil and travelling a bit. I went to Japan earlier this year for a couple of weeks, then Saudi Arabia and also Dubai, before a short stint in Australia. I went back to Brazil, where I had some really nice rides in big races that I have never won before. Career-wise, I have been doing all right, and being able to be around my family and relatives has made my life easier.
“I had initially thought about quitting at this time of the year but, once we got to here, I realised I can still do it for a bit longer. I don’t want to set a specific date that I will quit, because if I don’t, people will say, ‘what was he talking about?’.
“I was really struggling with my hip, but now I am OK. I have a team of doctors working on it with me and they have got me in to a shape where I feel like I can do a bit longer. I won’t just retire there and then. I will have a feel of it coming to a close and maybe announce it to everyone three months beforehand. I feel like I can do at least another 18 months if things stay as they are, but the doctors do say that it is not going to get any better.
“I was struggling more psychologically, whereas now I am so much better up here in my mind. The medical procedures have helped a lot and I am now excited to be on a horse’s back every time I get on.
“It is very unlikely that I will go back to Hong Kong. I will be doing stints in different places. I really want to go back to Australia. Then you have Dubai and Japan, which I think is one of the best places to ride in the world.
“I have been to the UK very few times in the past, perhaps four times in total for either the Shergar Cup or with horses from overseas. I don’t see people here being very interested in having me around. Jockeys live off rides and those rides are provided by owners and trainers, and I have not seen them willing to bring me over. That is why I have not mentioned about riding in England. I would definitely have to consider it [if a big trainer or owner asked me to ride over here] but they would have to be aware that I am not sure how long I would last!”
Regarding adapting to the new UK whip rules, Moreira said: “It is not going to be a problem. In Australia, you are only allowed to use the whip five times before the last 200 metres. The world is changing. Even in Brazil, which is a third-world country, there have been new rules implemented whereby a jockey is not allowed to use the whip more than eight times and the penalties can be severe if you go over. It is a change which I see as a good thing for the sport and I don’t see it being any problem for myself.”
GB & Ireland captain Luke Morris is set to make his first appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup. The 34-year-old gained the biggest success of his career aboard Alpinista in Europe’s most prestigious race, the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, in October.
Morris said: “The Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup is something that I have grown up watching. When I was asked to participate, I was hugely grateful. It looks a great, fun day with a real buzz about the place, and fingers crossed I get a good draw of rides.
“The prize money is great, and I have just looked at the decs and it is real competitive racing. From a participant’s perspective, everyone is really behind the Shergar Cup. I know lots of jockeys would like to ride in it, plus lots of owners and trainers like running horses here. To be honest, there is not much to dislike! I think it is a great initiative and the fact it is still going strong after so many years proves that it does work.
“I know my teammates Declan [McDonogh] and Tom [Marquand] very well. Tom is flying at the moment and Declan is a former Irish champion. Throughout all the teams, there is real talent on show and hopefully it will be a great day.
“I would not say my life has changed since winning the Arc as I have always been busy riding plenty of winners, but I was very lucky to be associated with Alpinista. You are on the lookout for the next Alpinista now.
“Riding winners at the highest level is always the aim. I am fiercely competitive and enjoy winning. I want to ride as many winners as I can each year, in the hope that it unlocks the door to ride nice horses.”
Saffie Osborne is another first-time participant in the Ladies team alongside Hayley Turner and Hollie Doyle.
In her first year as a fully-fledged professional, Osborne enjoyed a first domestic Group-race success aboard Random Harvest in the Gr3 Longines Valiant Stakes at Ascot last month.
Osborne said: “I am delighted to be involved in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup. It is a competition that I have watched growing up and my dad [Jamie Osborne] has always had quite a few runners. It is really cool to be invited in my first year as a professional.
“The Shergar Cup is something different and I think the sport needs things like this. It attracts a different audience and brings in some of the best jockeys from around the world.
“I stay with Hayley [Turner] half the week in Newmarket so I am used to her bossing me around! Hayley and Hollie [Doyle] are obviously two people I have looked up to massively and to be on the same team as them is a real honour.
“I can’t really complain about how things are going. I had my first domestic Group winner on Random Harvest a few weeks ago, and then my first Glorious Goodwood winner the following week. This is the first year where I feel like things are really clicking into place. For that to happen in the first year out of my claim is really exciting and I am really grateful to everyone who has supported me.
“Riding a better quality of horse is what every jockey wants to do. I have been fortunate this year to find a few horses who are of that higher standard and those are the sort of horses you need to take your career to the next level.”
Japanese jockey Kazuo Yokoyama was also in attendance. A winner at the top level in his home country, Yokoyama follows in the footsteps of his father Norihiro and younger brother Takeshi, who rode at the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup in 2001 and 2022 respectively.
Speaking via a translator, Yokoyama said: “As a family, it is a great honour to be invited for the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup. Takeshi, who came last year, and my father Norihiro are both proud to have engaged with this event and I am very much looking forward to it.
“Titleholder was a very delicate horse and I had to be careful when I rode him, but he also had a very strong mentality. He is a very unique and special horse.
“All the jockeys riding here are supreme and it is hard to pick one out. I am just looking forward to riding against them.”