Rails Run: Western Sydney Legends Day
Our racing experts preview all the action on the track at Rosehill on Saturday.
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It is early Wednesday morning at Sha Tin racecourse and I’m sitting in the top level of the trainer’s hut with the best jockey in the world.
Brazilian Joao Moreira is contracted to the Hong Kong Jockey Club for now – but he’s fired off his strongest intention yet that he wants to ride in Australia permanently.
Magic Man: Hong Kong is the home turf of Joao Moreira, regarded as the world’s best jockey. Photo: Getty Images
Asked if he would consider coming to Australia for at least a season, the 31-year-old said: “Of course. But the right opportunity hasn’t come yet. I am happy here [in Hong Kong], I am concentrating on what I do here and I’m extremely happy here. I hope I can carry on until something else comes up. But Australia is an opportunity I would definitely look at.”
Hear that, ATC and Racing NSW officials? Get cracking.
As both governing bodies seemingly wrestle with each other when it comes to the marketing and promotion of the sport, they could do worse than consider throwing incentives – financial or otherwise – at Moreira to entice him to Sydney.
Targeted by dubious websites: Sonny Bill Williams. Photo: Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ
Moreira is swamped every time he comes to Australia, with racegoers yelling out “Hey! Magic Man!” whenever they see him.
He’s had outstanding success in Australia, not least for leading trainer Chris Waller.
Moreira’s expert ride to steal victory for Brazen Beau against the likes of Lankan Rupee, Terravista and Chautauqua in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington earlier this month highlighted his class.
It prompted bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse to muse in the Herald that Moreira was “probably the best jockey ever”.
It’s already clear that Moreira will be one of the stars of The Championships.
He’ll ride Waller’s Royal Descent in the Doncaster Mile and Sweet Idea for Gai Waterhouse in the T.J. Smith on April 4.
Racing is nothing without its personalities, but the sport is being held back by politics and power struggles behind the scenes.
Various stakeholders have recently complained about it to this column, claiming the Golden Slipper carnival appears to be in direct competition with The Championships.
The Golden Slipper carnival has essentially been promoted by the ATC. The Championships, on April 4 and 11, are the baby of Racing NSW bosses John Messara and Peter V’landys.
Shouldn’t it just be one big, happy family?
Sydney is blessed with some outstanding jockeys, but Moreira is the type of headline act the sport should be pursuing.
Other sports have gone after genuine superstars from abroad. Sydney FC is still dining out on the Alessandro Del Piero effect. Why can’t racing do the same thing?
“Australia is one of my favourite countries – I am not saying that to lick Australia’s arse,” Moreira said. “I like the racing over there. It’s more tactical, it has good horses, and I have a lot of success there.”
Gay remarks way out of step
SPOTTED: Jacques Potgieter and his girlfriend sitting on the steps at Coogee Beach, looking wistfully out to sea, late on Monday afternoon.
An hour later, the ARU released a statement revealing the Waratahs’ South African import had been fined $ 20,000 – half of which is suspended – for twice using homophobic slurs in the dying stages of the fiery clash against the Brumbies.
It isn’t just lip service but we’re told Potgieter was genuinely remorseful, telling teammates “that’s not who I am”.
Randwick officials certainly hope not.
Potgieter has joined with the Wicks from Eastern Suburbs this season, moving home from Bellevue Hill to South Coogee.
Randwick director of rugby Nick Ryan told colleague Rupert Guinness less than a week ago: “I could not have been more impressed by the bloke … I was blown away with his real core values as a bloke. I thought, ‘If we can get him to instil even 50 per cent of that into some of our kids, we are on to a winner there’.”
Is the fine too light? Or too much?
It is understood the reasoning behind the fine was that the barb wasn’t directed at gay players.
Rugby, though, would be naive to think they don’t exist. How do they know who is gay and who is not? Sexuality doesn’t have a label.
Former Brumbies player Clyde Rathbone last year wrote about the tough experience of a friend who is a gay man in a professional sporting environment. He didn’t indicate which sport his mate played, but the assumption among many was that it was a rugby player.
Colleague Greg Growden also hinted in a column for ESPN that two teammates from a Super Rugby team were in a relationship.
To be honest, none of this matters when it comes to what can and cannot be said on the field.
The term “faggot” is rank. So is any other derogatory term, directed at any minority. There’s no place for it on the field, just as there is no place for it on the street.
Your humble correspondent attended the Waratahs-Brumbies match. It was the first time I’ve placed eyeballs on the new widescreens at either end of Allianz Stadium.
Holy Mary Mother of God … The screens are so good, you almost forget to watch what’s happening on the field. They cost $ 5 million each. Get yourself down to Bing Lee and snap one up.
Sonny Bill turns blind eye
Not sure about your Facebook feed, but I’m jack of copping these “suggested posts” suggesting Sonny Bill Williams has been using illegal supplements.
It’s become as annoying as the promise of abs in six weeks, and rapid hair regeneration.
The post about SBW asks this question: “Did Sonny cheat to become Australia’s greatest athlete? An insider claims he has a secret he’s been hiding for years … Will Sonny Bill be suspended for this?”
The link takes you to an advertorial from a men’s fitness magazine, spruiking dubious supplements.
We’re no lawyer, but the claims are highly defamatory. We expected Williams’ manager, Khoder Nasser, to release the legal hounds.
Nasser is aware of the campaign, but said NBA star LeBron James and former pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had also been implicated, and that Williams wouldn’t be pursuing legal action.
Meanwhile, book publishers are scrambling to secure Williams to an exclusive book deal.
He’s keeping his powder dry on the subject, but we’re told an unauthorised biography is due for release soon. Nasser insists Williams has not breathed a syllable to the author.
Warner eyes maiden after stumps
Dave Warner had only one thing on his mind heading into Australia’s World Cup semi-final against India at the SCG on Thursday night – the next delivery.
But the feisty opener can surely see the end of a long summer, with his impending marriage to former ironwoman Candice Falzon just weeks away.
We’re told the pair will marry in Berry on the NSW south coast the weekend after Easter. We’re also hearing that only a handful of Warner’s cricketing teammates will be in attendance.
Bazza’s a glass act
In a world exclusive, we have tracked down the man who placed a wine glass up against the glass of Des Hasler’s coaches box during the Bulldogs’ clash with the Eels earlier this month at ANZ Stadium.
Bazza from Belmore, as he wants to be known, says he’s been mobbed as a result of his cheeky act.
“It’s been crazy,” he told us. “People stopping me in the street, putting wine glasses on their ears. It was just a little bit of fun, and it’s exploded.”
Did you hear any words of wisdom from the great Desmond, Bazza?
“You can a bit,” he continued. “Funny stuff really. I’m a Canterbury supporter so I can’t reveal much. A lot of F-words. The walls were shaking. The vibration coming through the glass was unbelievable, so I wanted to know what he was saying.”
Bazza was in the Bulldogs First Class corporate suite, right next to Hasler’s box, as a guest of his good friend John Fadel, who runs the Bidel Group.
Fadel has received equal notoriety. He was the bloke who put the wine glass against the wall later in the match, and smashed his ear drum.
Yet more proof why rugby league is the greatest game of all.
“I’ll pay the fine.” – Brian Lara was stunned Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz was slugged half of his match fee for a mid-pitch stink with Shane Watson. Brian, I know of a couple of parking fines the SDRO want paid, too, so if you don’t mind …
The Socceroos almost had it, but then they didn’t, but their thrilling 2-2 draw against World Cup winners Germany in Kaiserslautern, with an understrength side, shows how far Ange Postecoglou’s side has come. To steal an old line from The New York Post after the US once drew with England: “WE WIN 2-2!”
So you are Jacob Loko, Bulldogs player. In January you went DUI, four times the legal limit. So you are Jorge Taufua. In 2013, you almost went to jail after spitting at Gold Coast coppers. You are both injured. You are not playing. So what do you do? Get in a barney on Elizabeth Street in the early hours of Sunday. Gibberererererers.
It’s a big weekend for … New Zealand, who find their way into the middle of the monstrous MCG on Sunday, attempting to win their first World Cup. At the time of writing, we weren’t sure if Australia had beaten India in the other semi. Either way, a cracker looms.
It’s an even bigger weekend for … the NRL. Headquarters talked tough this week about clubs flouting concussion rules. In so many games, you see a player cop a whack, groggily rise to his feet, stagger about, and then play on.