“THE area I know I can improve is in the office – I missed a few winners because I lost concentration and didn’t do a proper job selecting my rides. I can do that better and I will get more winners again,” commented superstar jockey Joao Moreira after riding five winners at Sha-Tin on Sunday and landing the 2015/15 Hong Kong Jockeys’ Championship with a record 168 winners.

“I can’t rate my season as anything but perfect – I got everything I wanted. I won the premiership, I beat my record and put a good margin on it and I won some big races,” Moreira said. “Every jockey would dream to have the kind of year I have had.”

Moreira told the South China Morning Post: “We will have more race meetings and more races, so I have more ground to run, and the change in how they do careless riding penalties now will also add more winners to all jockeys,” he said. “Before it was three days’ suspension, now it’s two and a fine, so every jockey will ride more days even if they do get suspensions.”

The Brazilian-born rider has ridden 97, 145 and 168 winners respectively in his three seasons in Hong Kong with two successive titles.

Moreira is believed to have a set a World record of riding eight winners from eight rides on the nine event card on Friday September 6, 2013 at Kranji racecourse in Singapore.

His rags-to-riches story started as a battling youngster somewhere on the Brazilian coastline. He was only seven years old when his father died at the age of 53. The family lived in a shack in a seaside village.

Moreira’’s career started as an apprentice in 2005/06 season. He worked as a stablehand – a mafu, as he terms it – for no pay. He was so poor he couldn’t afford the bus ride to work, so he rode his pushbike for over an hour each day to get to the stables.

Finally, a door opened. A chance meeting with a jockey from his hometown during a race meeting in Sao Paulo allowed him to apply for the jockey academy in the country’s biggest city.

He made the cut, but had to ride six winners in six months to get a licence and, at the end of the term, when he was about to lose his chance to become a professional rider he took some advice from Nilson Lima, a horseman.

“Joao, you’re just too quiet,” Lima told him. “You have to ask for a ride. If they say no, you ask for another one. Eventually, they will tell them yes.”

A week later, Moreira walked into a trainer’s stable and asked the owner of Group 1 champion Eu Tambem if he could ride his best horse. The owner surprisingly agreed. On the dirt in Buenos Aires, Moreira won the group 1 Derby Argentino.

Darley – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s global thoroughbred operation – snapped up the horse. The rest of the world suddenly noticed Moreira.

“Brazil makes tough jockeys, man,” he said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

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