Joao ‘Magic Man’ Moreira was crowned champion jockey of Hong Kong for the fourth time last week.
Moreira rode 157 winners from 742 rides for stakes of a healthy HK$ 215 300 250. That equates to over R403 million, in case it means something!
The superbly talented rider also joined an exclusive club as only the third jockey in the history of Hong Kong racing to have ridden 1000 winners in the jurisdiction alongside our own Dougie Whyte and Aussie star, Zac Purton.
In a reflection of his charisma and consistency, Moreira was also voted most popular rider by public vote.
Following his three titles in succession, Moreira was dethroned by Purton in the 2017/18 season and the Australian held the title in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Such is the duo’s dominance after Purton’s initial title in 2013/14, between them they brought an end to the ‘Durban Demon’ Whyte’s supremacy of 13 years and between them have shared the past eight titles, four apiece.
Sealing the prestigious title, the ‘Magic Man’ adds the 2020/21 crown to his previous three in succession (2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17) after a season of sustained brilliance in the saddle, which early on, was troubled with an injury to his hip.
“It’s a very meaningful win for me, especially because I have been on the bench for three seasons in a row now and I had to find ways to ignite the flame within myself.
“I had a great determination when we started this season, I was more focused, I worked harder and I was more committed, I was hoping that I could really get there and with many other factors as well we did and we can say that with Zac (Purton) being suspended late on,” Moreira said.
“It’s been such a different season to any other that I have gone through, I started off with health issues – the hip injury slowed me for a little while,” Moreira said.
The Brazilian damaged ligaments in the off-season to his left hip which niggled at him early on through the course of the season before he received treatment in October, 2020.
“It’s very obvious that I wouldn’t have done it without the support of a lot of people, we all know who has contributed big time and to all of those guys, I just have to express my gratitude to them and how thankful I am for the opportunities to ride such good horses and to also be given the confidence to do so,” Moreira said.
Moreira won a pair of Gr1’s aboard Hot King Prawn in the 2021 Centenary Sprint Cup and the 2021 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup atop Waikuku.
“It’s obvious that in the last three years I could have won the championship if I didn’t make mistakes or if things had gone differently but knowing that just gave me such a bad feeling,” Moreira said.
Moreira also snared Hong Kong’s most prestigious contest for the second time this term, claiming the 2021 BMW Hong Kong Derby aboard Sky Darci, who under a superb ride from the 37-year-old overcame stamina doubts to claim the HK$24 million ‘blue-riband’.
“The Derby, I would say is my favourite – it’s one of Hong Kong’s most important races but not just this, the circumstances that we were in with Sky Darci – according to some he wasn’t the right horse to be on but to then go and win it was incredibly meaningful and I’m looking forward to the next one,” Moreira said.
Eager also for a break after an arduous 2020/21 campaign, Moreira has already begun planning for next season as he embarks on a fifth title bid.
“I’m looking forward to the break but if you’re a rider and love winning races then you’re already thinking of how we’re going to make sure that we keep on winning next season and that is already in my mind.
“The preparation for next season has already begun, how am I going to keep it up because there’s going to be pressure, everyone will expect me to perform and how am I going to do that, I have to put a lot of thought into all of this,” Moreira said.
“It seems a long season because of the situation the world is in, the virus has everyone stuck in the same place and we’re not allowed to go anywhere, even the break between the last two seasons, it didn’t give us the feeling that we had a proper break.
“Last season and this season feel like they have been linked together, it’s been a much tougher season for not just me but everyone else,” Moreira described.