They don’t call Joao Moreira ‘The Magic Man’ for nothing.
The internationally decorated jockey was at his brilliant best in Saturday’s Golden Rose (1400m), extricating Militarize from a sticky position halfway up the straight and sooling him home to post a last-stride win.
Moreira has now ridden Militarize three times for as many Group 1s but while his two in the autumn were dominant, Saturday’s was a little more nervous.
“To be honest I wasn’t that confident I would be able to win as we approached the last 300 metres,” Moreira said.
“I had a wall of horses right in front of me, I just couldn’t get the split right away. That forced me to be in behind horses, but I found myself behind the right horse that will take me forward (Cylinder – third).
“The last bit when I was able to get him into the clear he just dashed home like a star.
“Good horses make jockeys’ lives so much easier.”
Militarize’s ($6.50) official winning margin was a long head over Encap ($15), who was brave in defeat after making his run from the corner.
Cylinder ($4.20 bluebet fav) also turned in an enormous performance, trying hard right to the line despite being caught wide throughout to finish another short half-head away third.
Trainer Chris Waller said the decision to put blinkers on Militarize might have just proved a winning one by keeping the horse sharp enough for 1400m second-up.
“I thought the 1400 would be a bit short so we chose to put the blinkers on, which I don’t like doing too early in a horse’s career, but it might have just got us home,” Waller said.
“He had a nice draw, nice confident ride from Joao. There was a bit of traffic from about the 300-metre mark, but Joao cleverly weaved a path and he needed to be digging deep that last 100 metres and he did, he dug really deep.
“Joao has an amazing record on the horse and that’s why he’s come back (to Sydney) today.”
Militarize gave Waller his third Golden Rose after Zoustar (2013) and The Autumn Sun (2018) and like the latter, the winner is set to head on a Caulfield Guineas (1600m) path.
Waller will then decide whether to give the three-year-old a shot at the Cox Plate (2040m).
“Who knows? Dreams happen on a racecourse, that’s for sure,” Waller said.
“One step, get through today, second step Guineas, third step, get through the Guineas.”
Golden Slipper winner Shinzo settled last and while he made some late headway he never threatened, finishing ninth.
Waller said the race didn’t pan out for the colt and he would speak to owners Coolmore before deciding if Shinzo would press on to The Everest.
It was also revealed post-race that Shinzo had pulled up mildly lame in a foreleg.
“Nothing went his way. He got back and the race just didn’t unfold for him,” he said.
“I’ll have a good assessment of the race and have a talk to Coolmore and see where we’re at.”
Dylan Gibbons didn’t know how to feel after Encap was narrowly edged out but said the horse tried his heart out.
“I’m not allowed to swear am I? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. He’s gone enormous. Shame to get beaten that close,” Gibbons said.
Nash Rawiller was left rueing Cylinder’s difficult passage after the colt clearly won the start.
“The way I jumped I thought I would have been able to find a spot one-off,” Rawiller said.
“But they kicked up inside me and I didn’t really get the spot I wanted.”