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Ruan Maia celebrates breakthrough success at Happy Valley

March 31, 2021 at 3:32:44 AM

Brazilian jockey success in Hong Kong is overwhelmingly Joao Moreira's territory, but on Wednesday night (24 March), Ruan Maia recorded one of the most important – and relief-laden – victories of his career.

Eight meetings and 44 rides into his Hong Kong stint, Maia recorded his first victory, driving Bulletproof through narrowing holes in the home straight to claim the first part of the Class 4 Lok Fu Handicap (1650m).

The triumph was fittingly for trainer Ricky Yiu, one of Maia's most enthusiastic supporters and a well-known advocate of new jockey arrivals.

“I was still a fan of the modern Club jockeys,” Yiu said. “Even Zac Purton says I gave him a decent start when he first arrived.”

“Some of the more proven jockeys are tough to acquire; younger jockeys are easier to obtain because they do not have as many rides. He said yes as soon as I asked. The other senior jockeys say they'll worry about it and "get back to you."

“He was a bit rough around the first curve, but he remained midfield one-off the rail. I figured he'd run in the first three with the direction he was going. But in the final 150 metres, I thought he would come in second, but he's a talented little horse with a strong heart.

“I told the owner that even though he hasn't been winning, he hasn't been beaten much – just two or three lengths, and he's still trying.”

Competing in Hong Kong is intimidating for Maia and his Brazilian compatriot Vagner Borges, who are continually reminded of Moreira's remarkable consistency.

Maia, who moved from Singapore after finishing second in the Lion City jockeys' championship to Vlad Duric last year, has remained optimistic in his abilities despite limited opportunities.

“After three or four sessions, I felt happier, more optimistic, because something was new to me,” he explained.

“After that, I gained confidence, and I think I've been riding well since then.” I just wanted one horse to send me a winner, and tonight I got my first – I'm overjoyed.”
The 32-year-old, a two-time Macau champion jockey, admitted he often suffered with inspiration due to a lack of opportunities.

“I'm happy for that victory; I'll keep working hard, and hopefully I'll get more support.”

“I knew the horse had a fair shot – not a 100 percent chance – but I had some success before the last 300 metres, when both horses (inside and outside) moved out and the room locked.

“I waited a little while, and then my horse took off, and I won.”

“I didn't think I was the winner; I thought I was second, but Karis Teetan said, 'Well done, brother, winner.'"

Maia had seven third-place finishes in his first 43 rides in Hong Kong. In the evening's penultimate race, he added a second aboard Joyful Union.

Yiu won the Class 4 Kowloon Tong Handicap (1000m) on Joyful Win for Derek Leung until, as luck would have it, Moreira won the Class 4 Kowloon Tsai Handicap (1200m) on Fire Ball for Dennis Yip.

Zac Purton won the overall meeting riding title with a treble, cutting Moreira's deficit to 20 – 103 to 83.

President Star won the Class 5 Wang Tau Hom Handicap (1650m) for Purton and Danny Shum, before the reigning champion jockey completed a double aboard the Frankie Lor-trained Be Ready in the second part of the Class 3 Fung Mo Handicap (1200m).

Purton and Shum also won the first section of the Class 3 Fung Mo Handicap (1200m) with Harmony N Home, marking the pair's 20th victory of the 2020/21 season.

More Than Enough, trained by Neil Callan and Tony Cruz, won the second division of the Class 4 Lok Fu Handicap (1650m).

Alexis Badel continued his impressive season by winning the Class 5 Lung Cheung Handicap (1000m) for Benno Yung on Flying Monkey, an eight-year-old making his 53rd debut, before Karis Teetan piloted Farshad to a thrilling triumph in the Class 3 Junction Handicap (1650m) for trainer Me Tsui.

This Sunday, racing in Hong Kong resumes at Sha Tin (28 March).

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