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Pure Magic Moreira

The Magic Man's second Hong Kong Derby

He’s been tagged the new generation Frankie Dettori. Not many top jockeys are liked by their rivals, but Joao ‘Magic’ Moreira has the personality and charisma to complement an extraordinary balance in the saddle and a raw will to win. And we can’t find anybody who doesn’t like him!

Joao Moreira celebrates his second HK Derby (Pic – HKJC)

After clocking his 100th winner of the season at Sha Tin on Sunday, the 37 year old Moreira went on to grab his second Gr1 Hong Kong Derby success, with trainer Caspar Fownes’ labelling it the longest last 200m he has experienced in a race.

Moreira made world headlines when booting home 8 winners in one memorable day in March 2017 from eight rides on the nine event Sha Tin card.

The Brazillian fell short by one of equalling what is believed to be the world record – nine wins on June 4, 2005, by American jockey Eddie Castro at Calder racetrack in Florida.

But 8 wasn’t a new number for the Magic Man. He rode eight winners on a day in Brazil and, in Singapore, won the last eight one day and the opening race the next for nine in a row.

So what makes him so good?

Maybe trainer David Hall summed it up best when he said Moreira’s knack of getting lower class horses to up their game was a key point.

“It’s one of his best assets – you see horses that race in the back half of the field in the lower grades and Joao gets on them and suddenly they are in midfield or the front half of the field and it is the difference between winning and losing for them,” Hall said.

“And, on top of his skills, he has a winning personality. Everyone likes him.”

A multiple Hong Kong Champion, Moreira moved to 22 winners clear of nearest rival Zac Purton and capped a memorable day on Sunday, conjuring a special performance from Sky Darci to overcome serious stamina doubts.

The Darci Brahma gelding was plucked from New Zealand as a PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin), joining the Fownes stable as a raw, unraced gelding in 2019. Less than two years later, he is part of Hong Kong racing folklore.

Eleven starts after debuting in Hong Kong on 9 November, 2019, the four-year-old emulated the feats of fellow unraced import Golden Sixty, now the highest-rated horse in the jurisdiction, by staving off stouter-bred stayers to lift Hong Kong’s most coveted Classic.

In the end, only a head separated Sky Darci and a charging Russian Emperor – the son of super-sire Galileo and champion Australian mare Atlantic Jewel – as Panfield, a triple Gr1 winner in Chile, closed menacingly.

On a day of milestones, Moreira celebrated his second Derby achievement after Rapper Dragon in 2017, as the Brazilian gave an icy display on Sky Darci, sitting behind Shadow Hero as Healthy Happy and Silver Express set a solid clip in front.

“It was such a smooth run – he jumped out well and immediately I just grabbed hold of him and tried to put him to sleep,” Moreira said.

“Once those two horses (Healthy Happy and Silver Express) ran away in front, it was such a good section for us and at, the 800 metre mark when Russian Emperor was moved out and left the fence for me to start improving, it actually forced me to go a little bit too early.

“I had to angle my way out but once I got into the straight, I had taken the lead a little bit too early but I knew I was on the best horse in the race and I had a lot of confidence in the horse.

“I knew they (rival runners) were coming, they were good horses as well. He’s not a specialist 2000 metre horse, in my opinion, but he’s got heart and even if they were coming, he was giving his best. Going across the line, oh my goodness, it’s such a meaningful race for me, for Casper too and his family.

Sky Darci holds Russian Emperor at bay in a thriller(Pic – HKJC)

“This is the first Classic that I’ve had for him (Fownes). I haven’t had too many rides in the big races for him and he’s a tough trainer, he’s won the championship a number of times, he’s won the Derby before and this is such a great training achievement.

“He’s got this horse to a great level – if he didn’t do such a great job, I don’t think we would have won the race.”

Sky Darci was the high point of a Moreira treble after the ‘Magic Man’s’ success on Courier Wonder in the Class 3 Designs On Rome Handicap (1200m) and Fantastic Way in the Class 3 Luger Handicap (1200m).

Hong Kong racing continues to captivate the racing public worldwide and their next big day sees Japan’s elite and Hong Kong’s brilliant best among the list of 77 horses holding entries for FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on Sunday, 25 April, 2021.

FWD Champions Day features three world class Gr1 races, the HK$25 million FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m), the HK$20 million FWD Champions Mile (1600m), and the HK$18 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m). A total of 19 Gr1 winners are among this year’s exciting entries.

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