Loyalty is not exactly rife in Hong Kong racing and many jockeys will wait as long as possible before committing to a big ride, but for Chad Schofield there was never any question who he was going to partner in next month’s Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m).
The 25-year-old has been aboard the Richard Gibson-trained Rattan for his last eight starts – including a second place in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize – and 16 of the six-year-old’s 24 career runs.
“I was always going to stick with Rattan because he’s been such a good horse for me,” Schofield said. “The owners and Richard have been good to me with him for a number of seasons, so I was always happy to ride him.”
This year’s Sprint shapes as white-hot, with three-year-old flier Aethero, Beat The Clock and Hot King Prawn leading the way, but Schofield is confident his charge can put in a big showing.
“I thought his two runs back this season have been good with top weight in handicaps. He gave some good horses a lot of weight and he wasn’t beaten far,” he said.
“We know off his Chairman’s Sprint Prize run that there’s not much between him and Beat The Clock, so off that performance he is right in the race.”
Rattan skipped the traditional Sprint lead-up race last weekend, with Schofield riding D B Pin, and the jockey is looking forward to seeing what the horse can do off a seven-week break come international day.
“That was Richard’s plan, he’s a horse who loves being fresh,” Schofield said. “Richard deliberately didn’t run in the lead-up race last week because he didn’t want to overtax the horse heading into December.
“He’s just going to have a barrier trial and he’ll go into the race fresh, which is when he performs best.”
After being stood down after one ride – a winner – due to dehydration at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, Schofield is fighting fit as he heads to Sha Tin with a full book of 10 rides and some solid winning chances.
“I’ve definitely got four or five really nice rides,” said Schofield, who has ridden a winner at the last two meetings and nine for the season.
“I’m looking forward to Guy Dragon up to a mile off a good draw, I think Mr Magellan will run well staying in Class Five and back on the turf, Yoo Yoo King looks like a really exciting horse and I think Star Luck will run well too.”
Schofield partners the John Size-trained Time To Celebrate in Saturday’s premier race, the Class One Chevalier Cup (1,600m), and the horse returns to the distance of a win and three placings last season.
Time To Celebrate ran 10th over 1,400m first-up but was only half a length behind stablemate Champion’s Way, who is likely to start favourite on Saturday.
“He’s drawn badly [in 13], which is unfortunate, but his run the other day wasn’t too dissimilar from Champion’s Way. He’s in the right stable and a Class One mile is his type of race,” Schofield said.
Another horse Schofield is looking forward to riding is the Jimmy Ting Koon-ho-trained Aquila, a four-year-old gelding still finding his way.
After a win and a second from four 1,000m starts, Aquila ran second over 1,200m on the dirt last start and remains at the course and distance for the Class Three Chevalier Lifts & Escalators Handicap.
“He’s still very young, he’s a horse with a lot of early speed and it seems to look like you want to contain him a little bit early to help him finish the race because he does look to be a little bit vulnerable late,” Schofield said of the horse, who has drawn barrier nine in what looks an open contest.
“Hopefully he can have a nice run, get across from that draw and have enough petrol in the tank for the end.”