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Friend or foe, Moreira mindful of rising Debt in Dubai Turf
Michael Lee in Dubai

Champion jockey Joao Moreira has always treasured the friendship ties he has made in Singapore, probably made even stronger after he left for Hong Kong in 2013.


One of them is with Australian trainer Cliff Brown, who supplied the Brazilian ace with numerous winning rides during his five wonder years at Kranji. Horses like Zac Spirit, What Now and Divided House spring to mind.


But come Saturday, the two mates will not give each other any quarters in neutral ground - Dubai.

Joao Moreira interviewed by Rupert Bell at the press conference in Meydan on Thursday morning
(photo by Michael Lee).


Moreira rides Japanese mare Vivlos in the US$6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf (1800m), the same race Brown has engaged Singapore Horse of the Year Debt Collector.


The jockey they call “Magic Man” was on hand at Meydan on Thursday morning and among the two horses the consummate professional jumped on was Vivlos, a four-year-old daughter of Deep Impact. Even though Moreira has never ridden the Grade 1 Shuka Sho (2000m) winner before, he was quick to rank her among his top three chances from his five rides at the Dubai World Cup meeting.


The diligent form student has already sized up his Dubai Turf opposition. Moreira is hungry, especially after he has drawn blanks since his double with Hong Kong’s Sterling City and Amber Sky in the two sprint races, the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the Al Quoz Sprint respectively, back in 2014.


But should Vivlos lose, then the next best outcome is to see Debt Collector win for his good mate – and also for a country he still feels a deep bond with.


The only way a Debt Collector triumph would leave the always ultra-competitive jockey with a bittersweet taste is to have Vivlos finish runner-up.


“Of course I respect Debt Collector. I’ve watched his races and I know he’s a very good horse. He’s got a very powerful turn of foot,” said Moreira.


“I heard about his last run when he pulled up with a respiratory distress, but I have no doubt in my mind Cliff would not have brought him to Dubai if he was not 100% happy with him.


“If Debt Collector wins, I would be very happy for Cliff as he’s my friend. When he comes to Hong Kong, he always visits me.


“But I wouldn’t be happy if he wins and we are second. We may be friends but when it comes to racing, I want to beat him, simple as that.


“The only way I’d be happy if he wins would be for us to finish third or worse, like fifth or something, and far behind.”


Debt Collector is not the only Singapore horse whose form Moreira knows very well. He is also well versed with the Dubai Gold Cup contender Quechua’s amazing journey at Kranji, even if he sounded more tactful about the threat he represented to his mount, Heartbreak City, whom he steered to an agonisingly close second to Almandin in last year’s Melbourne Cup.


Moreira has actually made the part-time Irish steeplechaser trained by Tony Martin his best chance to go home with at least one silverware in his suitcase.


“I had already left when Quechua started to compete in Singapore, but I know what he’s done. Corey Brown used to ride him and they’ve won big races together like the Gold Cup and the Derby,” said Moreira.


“Every horse has to be respected when they make the field in Dubai. None of them are here for fun and games.


“Even though Singapore’s horses are not the strongest, you have to respect them.”


It is precisely with the same mindset that Moreira approaches the comparison of his three records of eight wins in one day – Brazil, Singapore (September 7, 2013) and the most recent in Hong Kong on March 5, 2017.


“To be honest, there isn’t much difference in the three times I won eight races, be it in Brazil, Singapore and Hong Kong,” he said.


“But if I really had to split them, Hong Kong’s eight wins would be just a little bit that more special. Simply because it’s so much harder to achieve it in Hong Kong.


“In saying this, Singapore was also special as it was eight from eight while Hong Kong was eight from 10 rides. It is an absolute record, and of course, I have a framed picture of the eight wins on my wall back home in Hong Kong.


“I haven’t got a framed picture of the one in Hong Kong yet, but I will be ordering one very soon.”