The opportunity of a lifetime has been thrust upon Chad Schofield as Oceanographer stormed into Melbourne Cup contention with a stunning victory at Flemington on Saturday.
The talented Hong Kong-based jockey has claimed the ride on the stayer for Australia’s biggest race and he looks a terrific chance with local bookmakers winding him into second favourite behind Hartnell.
Needing to win the Group Three Lexus Stakes to force his way into the 24-horse field, Oceanographer showed a superior sprint at the end of the 2,500m event, racing over the top of Tom Melbourne to score.
Top jockey Kerrin McEvoy partnered the five-year-old gelding on Saturday, but he had already committed to ride Almandin in the Cup, paving the way for Schofield to snare the mount.
While the 22-year-old is chasing his first Melbourne Cup, he’s no stranger to big race success, having won the Cox Plate with Shamus Award in 2013.
Oceanographer will carry 52kg on Tuesday, with Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter slugging him an extra kilogram penalty for the victory.
The Lexus Stakes is a strong form reference for the Melbourne Cup, with eight of the last nine winners finishing in the top 10, while Shocking (2009) is the most recent runner to complete the double.
“Kerrin gave him a fantastic ride and the horse just found for him,” trainer Charlie Appleby said.
“We’ll freshen him up as much as we can and we look forward to Tuesday.”
Schofield, who finished an unlucky eighth aboard Seaburge in the Cantala Stakes earlier in the day, should be able to find a nice position in the run after Oceanographer drew gate 11 at Saturday night’s barrier draw, but fellow Hong Kong jockey Joao Moreira didn’t fare as well with his Melbourne Cup mount Heartbreak City to start from stall 23.
The Magic Man will have to wave his wand to win from there, but he’s in good form having landed a winner at the iconic Victoria Derby meeting, guiding home smart mare Sheidel in the Group Three Sensis Stakes.
While Moreira enjoyed some success, the man thought most likely to get a win of the Hong Kong triumvirate at Flemington was Zac Purton, but he had to settle for second in the Group One Victoria Derby.
Riding short-priced favourite Sacred Elixir, the three-year-old gelding took a while to settle fully but still managed to hit the front early in the home straight before being overrun by Prized Icon, who was ridden by Glyn Schofield.
“He raced all right, he had his chance,” Purton said afterwards.
The win of Prized Icon was a significant one for trainer James Cummings, with four generations of his family now having won a Victoria Derby.
Cummings follows in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Jim, his legendary grandfather Bart and father Anthony.
Regular Hong Kong visitor Hugh Bowman continued his exceptional form, collecting two Group Ones with Flying Artie prevailing in the Coolmore Stud Stakes while Le Romain took out the Cantala Stakes.
Top Australian jockey Tommy Berry copped an 11-meeting suspension for a careless riding charge in the Derby, but it won’t affect his ability to partner Designs On Rome in the Group Two Jockey Club Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday, November 20.