“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.
“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.