The winners circle with Joao Moreira saluting the win, one of five on the programme for the leading jockey, picture Liesl King
The winners circle with Joao Moreira saluting the win, one of five on the programme for the leading jockey, picture Liesl King

A tactical piece of brilliance from Hong Kong’s champion jockey Joao Moreira secured a Japanese victory for the Noriyuki Hori trained Neorealism (JPN) in the HK$20m, Group 1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

After not breaking quickly from barrier six Moreira was forced to take a sit on Neorealism in sixth as the field went past the finish line for the first time. The United States (IRE) and Brett Prebble led over Blazing Speed (GB) and Neil Callan and Pakistan Star (GER) and Silvestre de Sousa in third to ensure the usual laggard from the barriers was not giving way lengths to the leaders as usual.
The tempo was only steady down the back and Moreira went to Plan B with Plan A of leading from the start out of action. With 800m to travel Moreira made his move sending Neorealism around the field to take over the running and increasing the pace.

The move left Pakistan Star stranded and de Sousa set to work to keep in touch with Werther (NZ) and Bowman in front of them with The United States and Blazing Speed still following the leader up ahead.

Once into the main straight for the second time it was the big guns of Werther and Pakistan Star, back in contention setting out to chase down Neorealism and Moreira who were in the zone up ahead.

Both tried very hard with last year’s winner Werther inside Pakistan Star who was running the race of his life at this level. Slowly both gained on Neorealism, but Moreira had won the race with his leading move at the 800m and the gap was too hard for both the defending champion and the rising star.

At the line Neorealism was a neck in front of Pakistan Star (Shamardal) and de Sousa with a short head to Werther (Tavistock) and Bowman third. The 2015 winner Blazing Speed did well to be fourth 3/4L away with The United States fifth, Secret Weapon sixth, Dicton seventh and Designs On Rome eighth with retirement surely pending.

The time was 2.04.59 on the Good to Firm track.
Moreira celebrates the win, picture Liesl King
Moreira celebrates the win, picture Liesl King

Moreira returned to the winners circle after celebrating standing high in irons and saluting his first win in the race. Without doubt it was his move down the back that was the deciding factor in the win.

“He didn’t really jump as well as we expected, we thought he was going to be able to lead but as he jumped a little bit slow I had to give him a chance to get cover behind horses,” he explained.

“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.”

The win was the fourth at Sha Tin for Hori with the latest with the mercurial Maurice (JPN) in last December’s Group 1 Hong Kong Cup over 2000m. Neorealism also raced on the same day for a disappointing ninth, but that was more than compensated for with Sunday’s victory, his first at Group 1 level.

“Last December he had a little difficulty in adapting to Hong Kong, but this is his second trip to Hong Kong so he has learnt a lot from that first trip and he was much improved,” said Hori.

“We talked about some patterns for the race, but Joe gave him the best ride. He had ridden Neorealism in trackwork so he knew the horse and what he could do,” he said.

Hori said that they would check the condition of Neorealism when he returned to Japan, but the win gave him options with both domestic and international races in the future for the six-year-old entire.

Neorealism, by Neo Universe out of the Meadowlake mare Tokio Reality, was racing just the 18th time. It was his eighth win and third black type victory with two Group 2 wins in Japan prior to Sunday’s race. Owned by Carrot Farm he earned a stake of HK$11.4 million.

The chasers could not bridge the margin to Neorealism, picture Liesl King
The chasers could not bridge the margin to Neorealism, picture Liesl King

What the beaten jockeys said:
2nd - Pakistan Star – Silvestre de Sousa

“He ran a very good race, the pace was just too slow early. He got left behind when they sprinted but finished off so well.”

3rd - Werther – Hugh Bowman

“He acquitted himself well. It was very slow in the middle stages and that didn't suit him. I thought the sprint home would but the Japanese horse just got a break on us.”

4th - Blazing Speed – Neil Callan

“He ran with credit. It was always going to be a messy race. I settled into a nice position but then when Joao made his move, I let him go and took the trail but then Werther came around me and the leader kicked on. They were just too good for me.”

5th - The United States – Brett Prebble

“He tried hard, he’s a marvellous old horse. Coming off heavy tracks on to a fast track, it probably stung him a little bit. He’s been a good soldier for the boss.”

6th - Secret Weapon – Zac Purton

“He ran well.”

7th - Dicton - Olivier Peslier

“The pace was a bit slow for him and softer ground would be his preference. He took time to pick up when the pace lifted.”

8th - Designs On Rome - Tommy Berry

“We’ve seen the best of him. He’s had a great career but now he’s coming very close to the end.”