For the tick over 200 seconds it took Heartbreak City to run the 2016 Melbourne Cup, Joao Moreira did almost everything perfectly.
From barrier 23, he weaved his way to a spot one-off the fence, relaxed his mount, made ground at the right times and pushed clear when it was time to sprint.
You could give the ride a 9.9-out-of-ten, it was a ten if he had won, and he would have almost certainly won had Kerrin McEvoy not shadowed Moreira’s every move on the winner, Almandin.
Moreira isn’t a man that dwells on his defeats. After all, even the world’s best jockeys lose more than they win and the Brazilian – with an all-time best career strike rate of 22.2 per cent in Hong Kong – still “fails” three times more than he succeeds. The Cup, though, is different.
“I’ve replayed that race in my mind thousands of times,” he said before boarding a Sunday night red eye bound for Melbourne, and a shot at redemption in Tuesday’s race. “There were things that I could have done better and things spin back into my mind.”
Moreira says the result – a margin of a nose, a matter of centimetres at the end of 3,200m – was, pun intended, “heartbreaking”. “
“The name is appropriate,” Moreira said. “I knew I had done all I could reasonably do, but to win a race that big by such a short margin is exactly that, heartbreaking. It is very difficult to gain a run like that in a big race with so many runners. Maybe there were a few things I did that cost my horse the race. There are the types of little things people would never be able to see. When I turned for home I had to shoulder my way out, and perhaps my horse got just a little unbalanced – that can be enough to get you beaten by a neck. Maybe I wasn’t behind the right horses at the right time, and I had to go three deep because those horses were not taking me into the race.”
Two of the best rides in a #MelbourneCup you will ever see.
WATCH as @kpmcevoy (Almandin – Gate 24) perfectly tracks Joao Moreira's every move (Heartbreak City – Gate 23).
— Racing.com (@Racing) November 4, 2018
Heartbreak City was Moreira’s third ride in the race after two previous unplaced finishes, and he missed the ride on Thomas Hobson in 2017 after a fall on the undercard, but he rates ex-Aidan O’Brien charge Constantinople, now trained by Hong Kong-bound handler David Hayes, his best opportunity yet.
It is not only the previous failures that fuel Moreira’s desire to win Australia’s biggest race, but the challenge of riding against the world’s best riders.
“Of course it is a prestigious race and stops the country, and those big race days bring the best riders in the world, so you have to come up with your best game otherwise those guys will eat you alive, like a lion that hasn’t eaten in a month,” Moreira said. “It’s the crème de la Crème as far as jockeys are concerned and a very tactical race. It’s a hard race to ride. You have to find a spot and that can be difficult, but you also have to make sure your horse is balanced and relaxed early, so you have to make sure he switches off. “
“They are such good riders that if you don’t bring your best then you have no chance at all. And when you are on a chance, then they are going to make it even tougher for you, you are the target man.”