EXCLUSIVE: “I need some time for the news to sink in”

Joao Moreira speaks for the first time as the star Brazilian jockey weighs up options after failing JRA exam

By Michael Cox
A Hutchi’s Honkers Exclusive


Star jockey Joao Moreira said he needs time to consider his options and that his family is his priority after it was revealed on Thursday that he failed the first part of the exam to become a full-time Japan Racing Association rider.

Moreira is currently riding in Japan on a short-term license after sensationally quitting Hong Kong racing in July and announcing he would attempt to become the third foreign jockey in the top tier of Japanese racing.

The first part of that step was a 90-minute written exam, in English, on October 3 that included questions on racing rules, raceday procedure, plus questions about recent racing history.

Despite an extensive study schedule and a feeling that he was a chance of passing the test, the Brazilian found out at 10am Tokyo time that he had failed.

“I felt I was a chance of passing because I had worked so hard, but it was still a shock to find out I had failed and very disappointing. I need some time for the news to sink in,” Moreira said from Japan in an exclusive interview.

“I want to make it clear that I am disappointed in myself, and not with the JRA and I want to thank the JRA for the opportunity to take the test. The test was difficult but fair. What I want to say most of all though is thank you to all of the people that have been supporting me. From my manager Adam Harrigan, to the fans here who have been voicing their support at the track, I really love riding here.”

Moreira saved special mention for his wife Taciana, who has moved to Japan with the couple’s two young children Miguel and Marina, to support her husband’s dream of riding in Japan, and said the decision on what to do next would place family as a priority.

“Not much has been written about that and we haven’t spoken publicly about it, but the fact Taciana and my family have moved here with me shows our commitment,” he said.

When the JRA released results of the exams, which are open to all foreign riders, it did so in a way designed to keep the identities of those who sat the exam secret as the list also included Japanese jockeys from the lower tier National Association of Racing (NAR) circuit.

Numbers were given to each jockey upon sitting the exam and when the release stated only one number had passed, number seven, it left hope for Moreira’s legion of Japanese racing fans.


“Pass and fail” notification of the JRA exam written component


That hope was fleeting though, as Japanese rider Kanichiro “Joe” Fujii, who has also ridden extensively in Australia and Korea and has sat the JRA test numerous times, was reported by local Japanese media to be the sole jockey to have passed.

Moreira later confirmed he had failed and planned to address racing media before riding at Tokyo City Keiba NAR meeting at Shinigawa on Thursday night.

Just as speculation surrounded Moreira’s exam results for much of Thursday, the conjecture will now shift to the question of where Moreira will ply his trade for much of 2019 and if he will return for another shot at becoming a full-time JRA jockey.


A star in Hong Kong, Joao Moreira celebrates with his fans after winning at Happy Valley. Photo by HKJC.


Moreira, who has ridden an astonishing 46 wins from 115 rides at a strike rate of 40 per cent in the JRA in 2018, will honour the remainder of his short term license, and intends to ride through until early December. “But after that, I honestly don’t know,” he said.

The 35-year-old was also unsure about whether or not he would re-sit the annual exam in 2019, as Italian Mirco Demuro did successfully in 2015 after failing the previous year.

“I still love Japan, things didn’t work out this time, but who knows what is down the road for us,” Moreira said.

“It wasn’t meant to be this time. Preparing for the exam is stressful and I spent a lot of time studying, and I answered a lot of the questions, but maybe I could have done better. I don’t know what I will do for now, I need time to think. It was quite a shock but here’s what I do know, I absolutely love Japan and it is still a dream of mine to ride here.”