After Nassa, Schofield looks to more mature Starlight at Happy Valley

Fresh off a barnstorming win aboard Tony Millard-trained Nassa in Sunday’s G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m), jockey Chad Schofield is looking forward to reuniting with Starlight as the in-form galloper makes his Class 2 debut in Wednesday night’s Aberdeen Handicap at Happy Valley.

“I rode him a lot before his first start, I was on in a number of trials and I then rode him in his first three starts,” Schofield said of Dennis Yip’s charge. “I always really liked him but he just wasn’t mature then.”

Starlight finished 12th, 11th and 14th in three starts for Schofield, all at Sha Tin. He steadily improved after that, though, winning his first race in May and has now won four of his last five starts, including his three most recent outings this season.

Starlight winning at Happy Valley last season, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

However, Schofield had not been on Starlight’s back for almost a year, watching as the Red Element gelding rose from the bottom of Class 4 up to his current spot at the foot of Class 2.
“He seems to have really strengthened up and matured now, he’s much more mature now,” Schofield said after partnering the five-year-old in a gallop on the Sha Tin dirt on Monday morning (6 November). “He felt terrific, he wasn’t out to go quick but he felt like a happy horse.

“I was happy to see him draw barrier one, because on the B course, that should give him every chance. With that light weight, I expect him to be very strong to the line and if he can win, it would be nice for his owners as he can extend lead in the Million Challenge.”

Starlight (114lb) currently shares the lead with Thunder Stomp in the Hong Kong Airlines Million Challenge, a six-month series for horses in Class 3 and above at the city track.

Zac Purton was in the saddle for Starlight’s last-start victory, but the Australian hoop is missing Wednesday night’s card through suspension.

Another horse that lines up at Happy Valley, having won last start with Purton in the saddle, is Spotlight Dream.

A winner of two of his four starts on synthetic surfaces in France, Spotlight Dream (115lb) led all the way to win easily at his first Hong Kong start on Sha Tin’s all-weather track in a Class 3 event on 14 October.

“He was very good on dirt that day but it is another level again here in Class 2 at Happy Valley,” Shum said. “I think we will know more about where he fits after Wednesday night, I’m still not really sure.”

Alexis Badel will be in the plate on Wednesday night at his first Happy Valley meeting since February. At his last ride at the track, he was victorious aboard 36-1 shot Rickfield.

The open Class 2 contest also includes topweights Archippus (133lb) and Strathmore (133lb), last-start winner Perpetual Treasure (119lb), as well as last-start placegetters Born In China (130lb), Super Turbo (129lb), Blocker Dee (127lb) and Pablosky (125lb).

The Class 2 Aberdeen Handicap ends the eight-race card at 10.50pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Tai Lam Chung Handicap (1800m), scheduled for 7.15pm.