Saturday, 18 February 2012
: Champion jockey Joao Moreira headed to Sydney in a winning frame of mind after he landed the main race of Friday night's proceedings, the $125,000 Canada Cup 2012 Open Class race over 1200m.
The Brazilian jockey, who flew to Sydney straight after Friday's last race to ride four horses for the Patinack Farm Racing team at Warwick Farm on Saturday, was having another frustrating night after none of his first five rides have been able to get in the winner's circle until smart sprinter Excavator saved his night – by the barest of margins.
Moreira went on to double the score in the last race when last-minute even-money favourite (following the late scratching of nominal favourite Excel N Strike) Zac Velocity cruised home to a thumping five-length victory in the $55,000 Canadian Chamber Stakes (Class 4) race over 1200m.
The start of the Canada Cup looked like it had gone all pear-shaped for Moreira and trainer Mok Zhan Lun when the Happy Giggle four-year-old blundered the start to settle at the rear, a racing pattern the usual on-pacer has never adopted in his previous 11 starts that yielded four wins between 1000m and 1200m.
At the head of affairs, pacemaker Happy Everybody (Muhd Firdaus) was galloping away at a good clip ahead of My Son (Ivaldo Santana) with favourite Ato (Barend Vorster) nicely tucked away in third on the fence and the other top fancy Mr Big (Stephen Baster) striding along in an ideal one-out one-back position.
The pace never slackened up, but Excavator ($18) had already taken closer order from the back of the field before swinging out wide round the home turn to issue his challenge. Ato dove for a rails gap at the 400m and looked home and hosed as he opened up a commanding break.
Mr Big was toiling behind as he could not quite muster a response to Ato's sudden turf on foot, but Excavator was on the other hand cutting Ato back with plenty of resolve on the outside.
The last 50m turned into a thriller as Excavator wore down Ato with every stride to score a last-gasp win by a nose. Mr Big held on for third, half-a-length clear of Happy Everybody. The winning time was 1min 11.79secs on a yielding track.
Moreira said he thought he faced an uphill task when Excavator, whom he has riding for the first time, missed the kick, but the gelding's quality and big heart overcame that initial setback.
“I've never ridden him before but I never expected him to make such a silly mistake at the start,” said Moreira.
“He was always on the bit, though and I just allowed him to settle into his strides at the rear.
“I was lucky he was able to get closer to the leaders pretty easily before the home turn.
“He tried so hard when he saw daylight in the home straight. At first when I saw Ato in front, I thought I could not get to him.
“I couldn't quite see with all the mud on my goggles, but 50m out, I knew he would win. He's such a genuine horse and he has such a big heart.
“I wasn't sure if he made it on the line. It's nice to leave Singapore on a winning note and hopefully it brings me luck in Sydney tomorrow.”
Moreira added he was the one who chased for the ride on Excavator, a horse he saw cut out for the Singapore Four-Year-Old Challenge, though the 2000m journey of the Emirates Singapore Derby might be a question mark at this juncture
“I think he would be a nice horse for the 4YO series. The 1400m (Stewards' Cup) and 1600m (Patron's Bowl) should be no problem, but the Derby may be too far,” he said.
“But I think if he runs the way he did tonight, he should be able to stay.”
Mok on the other hand was leaning more towards the sprint classics as part of the plans he had mapped out for his protégé, whom he unhesitatingly described as the best horse he has trained in his three seasons at Kranji.
“I will see how he pulls up and I may consider setting him for the big sprints like the Lion City Cup and even the KrisFlyer (International Sprint),” said Mok.
“He's always been a horse with plenty of ability. He was up against a very strong field tonight but with the light weight (50kg) and a champion jockey riding him, I thought he stood a pretty good chance tonight.
“He's also been working well, but when he jumped awkwardly, I was quite worried as he is normally upfront. But the pace was genuine and it was good for backmarkers.
“Ato was hard to get past, but my horse has a strong will to win. He's the best horse in my yard for sure.”
With this fifth success, Excavator has now brought his earnings past the $310,000 mark for the Excavator Stable.