Joao Moreira capped a four-timer at Happy Valley on Wednesday with a smart victory aboard Columbus County (NZ) (Redwood) in the Class 2 Time Warp Handicap (1800m) for trainer Caspar Fownes.
“We know how hard it is to win one race in Hong Kong, when you go home with four in the bag it’s very pleasing and I’m thankful for all of the support I’ve been getting,” Moreira said.
Columbus County, who raced as Sword in Stone in New Zealand, was the Brazilian’s wrap-up victory in the evening’s finale, the five-year-old scoring with an impressive, rail-hugging success against a quality field of Class 2 gallopers.
“I just couldn’t be any happier than what I am to be given the chance to ride such a nice horse, he’s done it like a good horse: he jumps well with them, he settles nicely four or five back on the fence, and when horses start to pick up he picks himself up,” Moreira said.
The Redwood gelding was one of last season’s main protagonists for the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) but could only manage ninth in the blue riband to Golden Sixty but he headed into his first run of the campaign this evening having rounded off last season with a success in the grade.
“Once I got him within striking position turning for home, and I put him under pressure close to the fence, he showed me that he has a lot of quality, and it’s not just going to be this, there are more wins to come for him,” Moreira said.
The win will lift the gelding to a triple figure rating with step one complete on his LONGINES Hong Kong International Races trail.
Columbus County’s success capped a double for Fownes, who earlier had Sky Darci (NZ) (Darci Brahma) land the second section of the Class 3 Speed Vision Handicap (1200m), also under Moreira.
The smart four-year-old was, like his stablemate, first-up for the term and was forced to do it the hard way from gate 12, travelling three-wide throughout to score by a length and a quarter.
The Darci Brahma arrived in Hong Kong as a 52-rater and prior to tonight’s win he was rated 71 in the middle of Class 3 but the eye-catching win prompted Four-Year-Old Classic Series talk.
“The Four-Year-Old Classic Series is definitely possible,” Fownes said. “He’s a Class 2 horse, he’ll obviously get around seven points for the win so he can stay in Class 3 and then carry a bit of weight next time and then if we can win one more he’s there.
“He’s always given me the feeling that he’ll get further, so we’ll give him one more 1200 metre race here and then we’ll start to stretch his distance.”