Top jockey Chad Schofield is poised to fulfil his Melbourne Cup dream aboard second favourite Oceanographer, but for a moment on Saturday he feared he could have been watching Australia’s biggest race from his Sha Tin apartment.
The rising star of the Hong Kong racing scene has made all the right moves to put himself in a position to win ‘the race that stops a nation’, but it’s required a lot to fall into place.
In the Lexus Stakes, Schofield was halfway down the Flemington straight when he thought his chances of winning this year’s Melbourne Cup were dashed.
His mount, De Little Engine, was out of contention and Oceanographer, the horse he’d been booked to ride in the Cup, was a long way off the runaway leader in a race he needed to win to make it into the field for the A$6 million event.
“Mine was hitting the line and I looked up at the furlong and realised I couldn’t win,” Schofield said.
“At that point Tom Melbourne was about two or three (lengths) in front and I thought, ‘it’s not meant to be’.
“Next thing, Oceanographer launched and when he actually won the race the crowd roared and I thought, ‘I can’t wait until Tuesday now’.”
The win was so impressive, bookmakers slashed Oceanographer’s price and now he’s rated an $8 hope.
Global racing empire Godolphin had already approached Schofield about riding either Beautiful Romance or Secret Number, but he held out in the hope their stablemate would make the field and the gamble paid off.
He knew Kerrin McEvoy, who partnered Oceanographer on Saturday, was already committed to ride Almandin in the Cup, so while other jockeys were found for Beautiful Romance and Secret Number, the talented 22-year-old sat patiently.
“It was my manager (Mark Van Triet) really, Godolphin booked us for the race, primarily for the other two, but he said we don’t want to ride them, we want to wait and see if Oceanographer wins,” Schofield said.
“He was quite confident he would and I’m glad he made that call because now we’re on the second favourite in the Cup.
“I’ve ridden in the past three Melbourne Cups, always on outsiders but this is the first time I’ve got a horse with a real live chance.
“He was ultra impressive in the Lexus Stakes, he really attacked and surged to the line. Light weight, nice barrier in 11, he’s in winning form, he’s had a look around Flemington. If he can handle the three-day back-up, he’s a winning chance.”
Schofield has already tasted big race success, having won the 2013 Cox Plate with Shamus Award but says the Cup is the ultimate.
“It would be a dream come true to win a Melbourne Cup,” he said. “You can never go into these races confident but I’m confident I’m on the right horse.
“A Cox Plate and a Melbourne Cup by 22 would be nice, wouldn’t it?
“Maybe it’s meant to be.”
Schofield will be joined in the 3,200m contest by Joao Moreira, who rides $19 chance Heartbreak City.
The Magic Man rode the Irish-trained stayer in trackwork on Saturday morning and is confident the last start winner of the Ebor Handicap at York can be right in the finish.
“Obviously it’s a very tough and competitive race but I’m sitting on top of a very nice horse,” Moreira said.
“If I win the race on Tuesday that would be something very special.”