By Declan Schuster
Championship leading jockey Joao Moreira is eager to bounce back onto the winner’s list with a full book of eight rides on Wednesday (11 November) night at Happy Valley, following a two-meeting suspension.
One of those mounts is Sky Darci, who proved a fine ally with a smart first-up win last time and is looking to follow-up in section one of the Class 3 Belcher Bay Handicap (1200m).
“It was very impressive, we had to do it tough coming from the widest gate facing the breeze three-wide, and at the line he was running away showing that he has got a lot of ability,” Moreira said.
The Caspar Fownes-trained four-year-old scored handily from gate 12 and this time he will step away from gate seven against 11 others.
“He’s no doubt a better horse than last year and that is expected as he’s been given more time. It feels like he is a horse that we are far off where he is going to get to – there’s plenty more to come from him,” Moreira said.
The youngster is a three-time winner from six attempts and is looking to further advance that eye-catching record, which has resulted in a 28-point rating rise since his debut as a 52-rater.
“He’s a very straightforward horse and I’m sure he crossed the line with something left in the tank last start. He’s still in the making, he’s not fully used yet,” Moreira said.
The Darci Brahma gelding is eligible for the Four-Year-Old Classic Series should Fownes elect to go that route, along with stablemate Sky Field. The series kicks off on Sunday, 24 January, 2021 with the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile.
“He feels like more of a sprinter but I wouldn’t be surprised if Caspar (Fownes) gives him a chance to see if he can handle the mile or not, he’s talented and he deserves that chance,” the Brazilian said.
Earlier on the card, Moreira will link up with second season handler Douglas Whyte in the Class 3 Kennedy Town Handicap (1650m), with Smiling City.
“He feels like the kind of horse that is ready to go and do well, he’s been racing well and I can’t see him doing anything different than what he’s been doing,” Moreira said.
The So You Think five-year-old won three starts ago but since then has had two starts for two fourths. This time he must overcome gate 12 of 12.
“I have to keep the faith – if we’re lucky enough to slot in somewhere, two off the fence, and he gets a smooth run then I believe he is the kind of horse who can win this race,” Moreira said. Against Moreira is a familiar foe, the John Size-trained Leap Of Faith, whom the Brazilian won atop in early September.
“I was already booked to ride Smiling City and at the end of the day I don’t regret it because I don’t think there is much between them. I’m going into the race with a very nice horse underneath me with certainly a winning chance,” Moreira said.
Valley the key to Lobo’s Legend
Paul O’Sullivan hopes the return to Happy Valley for Lobo’s Legend will be a winning move as the South African-bred shoots for a first Hong Kong win at his 21st try.
The six-year-old will make his second start for the Kiwi handler in section two of the Class 3 Belcher Bay Handicap (1200m), having transferred stables during the off-season.
His first run for O’Sullivan brought a fast-closing effort down the Sha Tin straight under Neil Callan who is set to partner again.
“If you look through his form, he’s placed in Class 3 at Happy Valley over 1200 metres, and that time he jumped from gate 10 and was beaten by a neck; traditionally there’s a lot of speed on in these races and if they run along like that again he’ll be closing pretty quickly late,” O’Sullivan said.
“I thought it was a good run (first-up) – he probably needed another 50 yards as he ran out of runway a little bit but I thought it was a good run and he’s trained on from there.”
Lobo’s Legend was a G1 winner pre-import, scoring in the SA Classic (1800m) at Turffontein, and while he has not come close to repeating that peak in Hong Kong, O’Sullivan is confident his charge has the ability to mix it in his current grade.
“He’s not going to get as quite far back as he would if he had drawn wide, but if he can hold a spot three back on the fence and its run well and he gets the breaks then he should be competitive,” the trainer said.
Wednesday’s eight-race fixture at Happy Valley kicks off at 7.15pm with the Class 5 Sheung Wan Handicap (1000m).