Chad Schofield knows it is do or die on Wednesday night if he wants to compete in his first International Jockeys’ Championship next month.
The 24-year-old has worked hard to establish himself in Hong Kong with three seasons already under his belt, but he would love to put himself in the hunt for IJC riches this year after missing out in previous years.
With Wednesday night’s meeting at Happy Valley the cut-off date for qualification, Schofield needs one winner to put himself level with the suspended Matthew Poon Ming-fai, while he also needs to hold off 13-time champion jockey Douglas Whyte, who is currently tied with Schofield on 13 winners.
Last season’s champion jockey Zac Purton gains automatic selection into the lucrative challenge along with the leading local and next two jockeys on the premiership table.
Karis Teetan has already locked away his spot in the event, alongside Vincent Ho Chak-yiu who has enjoyed a breakout season to date with 14 winners combined with 26 placings, which leaves Poon, Schofield and Whyte battling it out for the final berth.
But Poon will have to watch from the sidelines as he is suspended, while both Schofield and Whyte take five rides into the meeting, with the former confident he will be able to secure his selection by riding a winner or two.
“I know I am one behind at the moment, it’d be nice to be able to close that gap,” he said.
“It’d be a great privilege to ride in an event like that, I am very close, all I have to do is get a winner or two on Wednesday night and it’ll get me there.
“It’s definitely something we look forward to if you are involved, it’s a lot harder if you are sitting on the sidelines.
“It’d be great for me if I can compete in the event and it’s what I am hoping for.”
Schofield will be looking to get his win on the board early with Khaki in the Class Four Jackson Handicap (1,200m) after a second-up win at last month’s daytime Happy Valley meeting.
The Tony Millard-trained galloper has been allotted the 133-pound top weight after the win, but Schofield remains confident, saying he showed the right traits last time out.
“I thought he was pretty dominant last time, he was strong at the end of the race which is always promising,” he said.
“He stays in the grade but gets a bit more weight so hopefully he can get the job done again.
“I’d say Khaki is defiantly my best chance, Show Mission [Class Five Battery Path Handicap (1,000m)], Proud Sky [Class Five Bank Street Handicap (1,800m)]and Telecom Brothers [Sutherland Handicap (1,200m)] all have their chance as well.”
In the case of a logjam between Schofield, Whyte and Poon after Wednesday night, the jockey with the most second placings will be selected, putting Whyte in the box seat should he and Schofield be able to secure one winner each.
Whoever secures the prized spot will join the likes of international superstars Hugh Bowman, Ryan Moore, Yutaka Take and Christophe Lemaire in the event.
The winner of the four-race event on the night will take home HK$500,000 while the runner-up collects HK$200,000, with HK$100,000 going to third.