Popular jockey Joao Moreira reached his last-year’s record-breaking score of 153 wins an amazing four months ahead, leaving to the imagination what his final tally could stop at when Singapore’s last race meeting comes around on December 16.
With an incredible strike rate of 31.9% - which roughly translates as a win in every three rides – the mercurial Brazilian was always odds-on to smash his own record. It was only a matter of “when” and by how far.
Beginning the weekend nine wins astern of the mark, Moreira needed a big haul to meet the target. With a four-timer in the bag on Friday, it was almost half the battle won, and after riding four winners on Sunday, he was suddenly just one win shy of the landmark.
Jockey Joao Moreira guides Grand Arrival to a nose win from Davide (Barend Voster), picture Singapore Turf Club
Riding the Michael Clements-trained Grand Arrival ($18 favourite) in the $95,000 Class 2 race over 1200m, Moreira was content to bide his time in second-last spot aboard the noted backmarker, but many thought the champion jockey might have cut it too fine when lightweight galloper Davide (Barend Vorster), who had only 51kg of his back, pinched a one-length break at the 200m and was showing no signs of weakening.
But Moreira obviously wanted to get the record over and done with there and then as he was seen extracting every drop of petrol left in his mount to wear down the Patrick Shaw-trained Argentinian-bred. The pair got locked in a ding-dong battle for 75m, but at the winning post, Grand Arrival put his head down for a thrilling win by the slenderest of margins.
The improving Farrand (John Sundradas) who fleetingly looked like he could upset the applecart when he could push through right in between the fighting pair, in the end settled for a creditable third another 1 ¾ lengths away. The winning time was 1min 12.26secs.
After equalling his 2011 feat, Moreira stood a chance of bettering the score with his last ride of the afternoon aboard Rush. He looked well on his way towards rewriting the record books when the Michael Freedman-trained galloper opened up for what seemed a decisive break at the 200m, but race-leader The Big Dee (Stephen Baster) put his big head back in front to postpone Moreira’s new all-time best to another day.
“What can I say? It was a Grand Arrival indeed,” a speechless and mud-splattered Moreira summed up upon dismounting.
“To equal my record as early as September means so much to me. It again shows what I have always felt all along – this is by far my best season in Singapore.
“The winner (Grand Arrival) was always expected to get back. Once I got a clear run on the outside, he gave me a very strong kick to catch the leader right in the nick of time.
“I have to thank Michael for the ride. He’s the one who rang me and told me he would be a good ride for me.
“He obviously knew what he was talking about.”
Clements however thought the photo finish had swung the other way with the naked eye.
“I thought we ran second, but everything seems to go Joao’s way,” said the Zimbabwean-born handler.
“I knew he (Grand Arrival) would handle today’s track as he won his first race on a soft track last year. Still, he looked like he had plenty of ground to make, but it was a good effort to get there right at the death.
“We campaigned him for the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, but he probably didn’t see out the trip in the last two Legs. He didn’t get the mile (Patron’s Bowl) but his run in the (Singapore) Derby was not too bad.
“I think he will get the mile one day. I will now set him for a Class 1 race over 1200m on Polytrack in a few weeks’ time.”
Grand Arrival, a five-year-old entire by Pure Prize out of the Lode mare Flupp, has now amassed earnings in excess of $200,000 for the Happy Song Stable.