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  • Writer's pictureAlan Aitken

Take me back, baby - the Magic Man will return to Hong Kong

Some weeks ago, I put a hypothetical to a senior Hong Kong Jockey Club official - if Joao Moreira fails to pass his test in Japan to ride there full time, will he get the slot on the jockey roster which has been left vacant?

The current Hong Kong list has an empty place left on it - to be filled in perhaps late October - and it has been a poorly-kept secret that the name which was favourite to go into that vacancy is Silvestre de Sousa. But was Silvestre the Brazilian you get to take you to the dance when you can't have Joao?

At that time, the official involved shook his head and said, no, that ship has sailed and Moreira would not get the spot even if his dance card became free again. Sure, we might think about seeing each other again in 2019 but to take him straight back? That wouldn't be fair to others who made commitments to Hong Kong and kept them. They'd rented the tux and bought the flowers in good faith, so no, Joao couldn't simply walk back in scoop Hong Kong up and take it to the prom because he'd had an epiphany, says he made a mistake and should never have left. Hell, Molly Ringwald would probably be in that story somewhere, it sounds that much like an 80s teen flick.

Moreira's "five minutes to midnight" declaration for a Japanese future was, in fact, the reason for the blank space on the jockey list.

The HKJC was as surprised as anyone when the Magic Man made the switch, and made it the day before the licensing announcement.

Until then, I believe, his preference was to remain riding in Hong Kong this season but still study for, and undertake the required tests for a full time Japanese licence.

The Jockey Club felt that was not as committed a path as they'd like to see from Moreira - a bit too open a relationship, seeing other people and all - so a parting of ways ensued and he made his choice, quite clearly believing that the test which nobody passes first time would not be a hurdle.

Now, that hypothetical has ceased to be hypothetical and the rationales of sailed ships, or some noblesse oblige to more committed if less exciting beaux will cease as well. Whatever was hypothetically "fair" will evaporate in the cold light of morning.

Spies in Japan tell me that Moreira was working the phones hard on Thursday, as soon as the result of his failed test was known, and he was practically wearing our the numbers 2,5 and 8, although not necessarily in that order and followed by some other strings of digits that might indicate he was calling somewhere in Happy Valley.

Or maybe he was doing it 2018 style...

🤮 🏇 💘 HK

What options does the Magic Man have ?

Could the Japan Racing Association just continue to issue him with short-term stints all but rolling into each other, like it has been for the past months?

Perhaps those licences were linked to passing the test for the long-term permit and, now that that is off the table for another year, his status returns to that of other visiting foreigners who are limited in their frequency of licensing?

He can return to Brazil to ride, certainly, but riding there for a pittance is a long income drop from Japan or Hong Kong.

Could he look to return to Singapore? The Lion City was the stage on which the Magic Man came to real prominence and it would probably love to see him back.

A move to Australia or Europe or the United States? Not impossible if you can get past work visas and the like. Really, he could ride anywhere if he jumps the right hurdles.

But he will ride in Hong Kong.

Very highly-placed sources have told me that Moreira will most likely be announced within the next week or two as returning to Sha Tin and Happy Valley for the remainder of the season.

It's going to be a seismic shift again in the line-up of riders - even before we had a chance to fully work out who was going to benefit most from Moreira's departure, he will be back, the earthquake is going to slip into reverse and life will be back where it was in June.

As I pointed out in this space last week, Moreira's absences are not felt through the betting windows, as some might assume, but in terms of star power there are very few attention magnets like him.

Yes, he kissed Japan, but it was only a kiss - Hong Kong will forgive him and take him back as soon as the paperwork is completed. Hong Kong racing loves to be noticed on the arm of the sexiest stars.

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