Jenny - Clean

PERHAPS no jockey in a major racing jurisdiction has ever made a more immediate and spectacular impact than Joao Moreira has in Singapore.

Last season was his first in the country and the statistics tell us he finished third in their jockeys’ championship with 69 winners.

But the statistics, as they tend to, tell only part of the story as Moreira arrived when the season was already well under way, and actually left Singapore for a month at its height in order to sort out some matters back home in Brazil.

It is this season that the full impact of his talent has been felt. By the end of October, when a three-meeting suspension for the already champion-elect at least gave his rivals some breathing space, he had already equalled Noel Callow’s record for the number of victories in a season, and this with more than two months of the season to go. At the time of his enforced holiday the gap between him and his nearest pursuer stood at 36.

The likeable 27-year-old appears entirely unaffected by his success. Indeed it’s one of the jokes of Singaporean racing that the words ‘thank you’ recur with massive frequency in all his victory speeches and interviews as he passes on the credit to trainers, owners and even stable staff.

This is not entirely surprising as success for him is not a new experience. He had already won more than a thousand races before he came to Singapore, most of them in the Sao Paulo area. But there were major international triumphs too, of which the most satisfying no doubt, given the (normally) friendly rivalry between Brazil and Argentina, was his victory on Brazilian champion Eu Tambem in the G1 Derby Argentino in 2006.

Since then he has added wins at the highest level in 2008 on the star filly Bubbly Jane in both the G1 Premio Diana and the G1 Grande Premio Henrique de Toledo Lara. He also holds the record at Brazil’s Cidade Jardim racetrack, having ridden eight of the 11 winners there at a single meeting in 2008.

Not satisfied with this prolific success at home he had always wanted to test his skills overseas, and after brief stints in France, the UAE and Uruguay, he was recommended to Singapore Turf Club by former Kranji-based compatriot Eurico da Silva, now riding in Canada.

Also instrumental in persuading him to come to Singapore was trainer Douglas Dragon who used to use Da Silva often.

Dragon may have given him his start on arrival, but Moreira is now by far the hottest property in the Singaporean jockeys’ ranks - “an unstoppable winning machine” in the words of one prominent Singapore racing writer - who no longer rides for just one stable but is eagerly sought after by almost all.

Back home in Brazil he was twice winner of the top jockey’s prize at their equivalent of the Eclipse Awards, the Trofeos Massoro, in 2006/07 and 2007/08, the two seasons leading up to his departure, and there is no doubt that he left his homeland when at the peak of his powers and reputation.

He is a very friendly and outgoing character, always willing to chat with fans as well as media: a trait that only increases his popularity.

And just to prove he’s no one-trick pony he has taught himself English, from a standing start, and essentially from books and tapes, just in the time he’s been in Singapore. Married to Taciana, who is also Brazilian, they have a two-year-old son, Miguel.

With characteristic modesty he sees his invitation to the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys’ Championship as a compliment and a privilege rather than as any sort of right.

“It’s a real honour to be invited by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to ride in this challenge,” he says.

“Of course I wanted to go as soon as I was asked as Hong Kong racing is of such high standard. I’ve always wanted to ride there and this was an opportunity not to be missed.”

The big question for Hong Kong racing fans is whether he can have the same impact on Happy Valley as he’s already had on Kranji - and the racetracks of Brazil.


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