SUPERSTAR jockey Joao Moreira will be quitting Hong Kong racing at the end of the current season. Moreira plans to go to Japan to prepare himself for the rigorous tests required to become the Japan Racing Association’s third full-time foreign rider.

Moreira has withdrawn his application to ride in the 2018-19 season in a move that has shocked and surprised the racing world, though he did suggest recently that trainers had stopped supporting him like they’d done before.

Moreira will apply for a short term Japan Racing Association (JRA) licence, just as he has in the past two off-seasons. He will spend his spare time preparing for a written test, the first hurdle to joining Italian Mirco Demuro and Christophe Lemaire as full-time foreign riders in Japan.

He commented: “This was such a difficult decision and I want to thank all of the people in Hong Kong racing for what has been an amazing five seasons, but it is time to move on.

“When I came here I honestly thought I would be here for no more than two years, and I never expected to achieve what I have. I’ve experienced everything you can dream of as a jockey here and I’ve made some wonderful friends.”

Moreira (34) became immediately popular when he moved from Singapore to Sha Tin in October 2013. He’s won nearly every major race since and has been a landslide winner of the past three jockeys’ championships. He is currently suspended but when he returns next Wednesday he will be battling for the 2017-18 title with Australian Zac Purton, who trails him by just one win.

“I can assure everybody that I will be giving it all I have for the remainder of the season,” Moreira said. “There will be nine meetings to go when I come back, and it’s going to be an exciting finish. I really want this fourth championship.”

-Extracts from South China Morning Post.

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