It was always on the cards, but it’s still tough to absorb and accept. Around two years ago or a bit longer, one heard about Joao Moreira studying reading and writing Japanese, prerequisites to obtaining a permanent license to ride in Japan as a foreign jockey, something Christophe Lemaire and Mirco Demuro had to do before being accepted by the JRA.
Though working towards this new career path, with his huge popularity in Japan, Joao Moreira receiving a three month license to ride there is a given. Then it’s working towards that long term goal.
Of course only a fool will think this will not impact Hong Kong racing. In his time here, Joao Moreira has broken old records and set new ones. His partnerships with champion horses Able Friend and Rapper Dragon will be part of Hong Kong racing history. So will be that memorable day in Shatin a few seasons ago when he rode a record eight winners.
His other partnership, the one with that great horseman John Size, captured the imagination of Hong Kong racing fans. Who will benefit most from the end of this partnership? Has this decision to close the Hong Kong chapter of his career even caught his greatest support system off guard?
The Brazilian magic man, or as he corrected us with the telling line, “No, I’m a blessed man” spoke volumes about the man that is Joao Moreira. So has been the giving of his time to the media.
As he mentioned a couple of years ago when asked if he would autograph a painting of him and Able Friend and whether he minded sitting down for an interview, his answer was to the point: “Sure. You guys have a job to do just as I have a job to do.” He’s his greatest PR man.
Joao made his job look easy. Of course there’ll be the usual twittering from the land of The Tall Poppy Syndrome about him being unable to take the relentless heat turned on this season by Zac Purton who’s going after this season’s Hong Kong Jockey Premiership with a vengeance. But even the Zac Attack must be having a twinge of sadness to see such a formidable foe leave. Of course, the new financial gains now available should help soften the blow.
Though certain to return for the Hong Kong International Races in December and making other cameo appearances, Joao Moreira’s adios leaves an enormous hole in the Hong Kong riding ranks. For Hong Kong racing fans who warm to all things Brazilian, Joao Moreira is irreplaceable. Win, lose or draw, he’s been forgiven. He could do no wrong.
This season saw a change. Fairly or unfairly, he was booed by a certain section of the local Diiiiiuuuu Brigade after being beaten on favourites with the magic seemingly gone poof. That would have hurt.
Then came what looked like being his regular ride on Pakistan Star going walkies. Add to this being pummelled on course, especially in the past few months, by a rabid Zac Attack who must have sensed a chink in the armour. It must have come as a shock to the system of someone who at one time could walk on water and feed the forty thousand.
Joao Moreira is of course a very smart and very rich man. He’s also all about looking after número uno and intuitively knowing what’s best for him and his family. Nothing at all wrong with this. It’s called life lessons.
Joao Moreira is also fiercely competitive and wants to ride the best horses in the world. Even when those rumours a few years ago about him leaving for Godolphin- in Australia- started circulating, they were rubbished by those who wouldn’t wish to be drawn into playing poker with the Brazilian rider. Godolphin in Australia was not big enough for him. He dreams bigger. His sense of timing is impeccable. He’s always got a few aces in the hole.
Two years ago I wrote that if Joao Moreira, I would be looking at winning the Arc for Japan on, of course, a Japanese horse owned by the powerful Yoshida racing family. This might just happen.
Until then, Thanks, Joao. It’s been an extraordinary ride.
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