“MAGIC” Joao Moreira took the bull by the horns to win his first Group 1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin, Sunday, as Neorealism repelled Pakistan Star’s late rally to ensure a fourth Japanese victory in the HK$20 million feature. 

The Noriyuki Hori-trained Neorealism had been pinned as a likely leader in the eight-runner field, but after missing the kick Moreira slotted in towards the back of the pack. Australian raider The United States found himself the reluctant pace-setter under Brett Prebble, but, after that rival dictated pedestrian opening 400-metre splits of 28.03s and 26.77s, Moreira decided enough was enough – approaching the 1000m point, the champion jockey released some slack and the 4.5 chance rolled to the fore.

Neorealism wins QEII Cup.
Neorealism wins QEII Cup.

“It’s so special to win such a race, and a race that I haven’t won before. The first is always very special!” Moreira said after crossing the line a fist-pumping neck ahead of the Hong Kong Derby runner-up, with last year’s APQEII victor, Werther, a further short-head away in third.

“He didn’t really jump as well as we expected,” the Brazilian said. “We thought he was going to be able to lead but as he jumped a little bit slowly I had to give him a chance to get cover behind horses. The pace slowed so much on the back straight so I had to pop out and get going. He got going but he wasn’t at his top speed, so I was always confident that once we turned for home he was going to finish off strongly, which he did. It actually worked out pretty good because I was able to get him relaxed initially.”

Moreira rode a five-timer on the day, including a score aboard the Moore-trained Eagle Way in the day’s second feature, the G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m).

A crowd of 33,208 watched the thrilling action unfold, while the day’s turnover was a record HK$1.434 billion – up more than six percent on last year.