Brazilian jockey going for gold in Singapore

Kranji racecourse hosts the Singapore Gold Cup on Sunday.

Story highlights

  • Joao Moreira seeking to win Singapore Gold Cup for the first time on Sunday
  • Brazilian has become Singapore's leading jockey in the past three years
  • He arrived after an inauspicious start to his career as an apprentice in Sao Paulo
  • Moreira is mulling over his future, considering moving to Australia or Hong Kong
Remember the name: Joao Moreira. You may not have heard of him yet, but you soon will. Since arriving at Kranji nearly three years ago, the Brazilian has quickly become Singapore's top jockey.
It's a long way from Sao Paulo, where the 27-year-old struggled when he started his apprenticeship.
"My first six months were really bad because I didn't have any experience," Moreira told CNN. "(My first trainer) gave me a ride on a filly and I didn't really have control of her in the race. He said to me, 'Joao, you should look for another job because you don't have the skill to be riding horses.'
"That broke my heart. But I continued to work for him and when he saw I wasn't going to leave he started giving me advice and really helped me. After that he started giving me more opportunities, including my first Group winner. He was very important in my life and I will always appreciate that."
So what was the advice that his trainer gave him?
"Riding horses is not that difficult, but riding horses in races is really difficult. Not only do you have to have balance and skill, but you are riding against other jockeys," Moreira said.
"You are trying to beat them, but how? You must try to be the smartest one in the race. Really know when to make your move. Study the handicaps to see which horse is going to lead."
The advice certainly seems to have done the trick. Moreira recently rode his 100th winner for the second consecutive season. But there is one prize in Singaporean racing that still eludes him: the Gold Cup.
"I haven't had a winner in the Cup yet, so you could say it is my dream. The horse I'm riding (Martial Art) has got a chance so I'm just hoping."
What will be his strategy on Sunday?
"My horse will probably be somewhere in the middle of the field or a little bit further behind," he said.
"I want to be as close as possible to the fence and give my horse every chance. The distance is quite long (2,200 meters) so there's time, but you don't want to get caught wide at the first bend."
Whether or not Moreira captures his first Gold Cup on Sunday, it seems that the jockey already has one eye on his next career move.
He is certainly not short of offers. Australia beckons -- he has already enjoyed success there this season and is a popular figure Down Under, where he is nicknamed "Super Joe." Hong Kong has also been floated as a possible next step.
His fellow jockeys at Kranji are full of praise for the charismatic Brazilian.
"This guy has got a bright future," says veteran rider V. Sivan. "He's young, talented and he's gifted. Singapore is a good first step for him."
Moreira is keeping his options open: "Nobody knows yet, not even myself!"