It has been his dream to follow in the paths of Brazilian ace Joao Moreira since young, and now the young Bruno Queiroz has taken the baby steps forward by making Singapore his first venture overseas.
And the 22-year-old Sao Paulo native arrived in Singapore on Friday evening with not only two Rio de Janeiro champion jockey titles (2019/2020 and 2020/2021 seasons) and more than 900 wins on his credentials, but he also had the ‘thumbs up’ and recommendation from his godfather, Moreira.
The superstar jockey is a close friend of Queiroz’s father Antonio, who was a top jockey in Sao Paulo and is now still riding in Rio de Janeiro. Moreira watched his son grew up before he left for Singapore in 2009 and Queiroz also saw how the Magic Man took the world by storm since.
Impressed by Moreira’s achievements, Queiroz too yearned to build up on his international resume, but it was only until recently when Moreira returned to riding in Brazil in December last year that the pair sat down and discussed about Queiroz’s future overseas.
“Joao knew my father when he started riding in Sao Paulo as an apprentice jockey and they became good friends. Even after he moved to Singapore, he kept in close touch with my family,” said the Generation Z jockey who spoke mainly Portuguese and minimal English while fellow jockey Bernardo Pinheiro acted as his interpreter at the interview.
“We would always meet up whenever Joao came back to Brazil for a break from overseas. When he won on Raptor in the (Group 1) Grande Premio Brasil (in June), I was very happy for him.
“He became famous with his achievements in Singapore, and I always followed and watched his races.
“I still remember his wins on Super Easy in Singapore and Able Friend in Hong Kong because they were very impressive. Of course, I also knew that he rode eight and won all eight races in a day (September 6, 2013) in Singapore.
“Both my dad and Joao are a big influence when it comes to my riding, from how they position themselves on a horse to how they push them in races.
“But maybe because I’m younger, my style could be a bit more ‘explosive’ and powerful compared to my dad who’s ‘quieter’ in the saddles.
“Two years after I became a professional (jockey) (in 2021), like every other Brazilian jockey, I hoped to go overseas to ride and learn more.
“Joao came back to ride in Brazil last year and he asked me where I’d like to go. I was riding for a big owner in Brazil and he was happy to support me in America but I told Joao that my dream was to follow in your footsteps; to go where you went.
“He told me Singapore was an amazing place, perfect for me to launch my international career and that it was the right place to go. We sent in the application form (for jockey’s licence) in May.
“He said that if I did well here, that would open up opportunities in other parts of the world because that was how it was for him too.”
Queiroz, who began riding trackwork on Wednesday morning at his first trip overseas, was in no hurry to emulate his godfather’s feat but the winner of 14 Group 1 races in Brazil will try to find his feet here starting with seven rides at his Kranji debut on Sunday, which includes the Leslie Khoo-trained Big Max in the $110,000 Group 3 Singapore Golden Horseshoe (1200m).
His six other rides were Dr Kardo, Legacy Fortune, Gold Governor and Relentless for trainer Tim Fitzsimmons, Sand box for trainer Ricardo Le Grange and King Zoustar for trainer Jason Ong.
A two-year-old son of Charm Spirit, Big Max finished second to fellow Golden Horseshoe contender Artillery in a Restricted Maiden race (1200m) three weeks ago. He will jump from barrier three third-up.
“I’m happy to have seven rides on Sunday and I liked what I saw from Big Max’s run,” said Queiroz, whose mother also came from a family of trainers and jockeys but his two elder twin sisters are not involved in racing.
“Big Max had his final gallop on Tuesday. I didn’t ride him then because my medical clearance was not approved yet, but I sat down with Leslie to look at the horse.
“The tracks are beautiful and the people here are very friendly. Joao put me in touch with Dass (head valet) and I don’t know anyone else here except Bernardo.
“We knew each other since I started riding in 2018 and Bernardo, then based in Dubai, came back to ride in Brazil that year.
“Since young, I followed good Brazilian jockeys in the world. Besides Joao, I knew (jockeys) Nelito Cunha and Vagner Leal rode here too.
“I know (Manoel) Nunes is a good jockey too but I only saw him and we spoke for the first time last Saturday when I came to watch the races. He was polite and seemed like a nice person.”
While it remains to be seen where the future lies for the polished young rider, Queiroz is happy to stay committed to his new base till the end of the year, or until the curtain comes down in Singapore next October if all things go well.
“I want to win as many races as I can and learn and enjoy racing in Singapore,” said Queiroz, whose girlfriend Erika is the sister of fellow Brazilian jockey Leandro Henrique.
“It was a shock for me and Joao when we saw the news of the (Singapore Turf Club’s) closure in Brazil. We sat down and talked, but in the end, thought that it was the right step to take.
“The closure is not immediate and I can only gain more with international exposure, so we felt that we should stick to our plans.
“If I do well here, I’m happy to stay till the end before it’s gone because I had a good first impression of Singapore.
“After that, I hope I can continue to ride overseas elsewhere, though I have no plans yet as to where I go next.”
The Kranji first race is off at 06h00 on Sunday.