Chad Schofield remembers watching - from a tree house he’d built in the jockey’s Sha Tin housing block - his father Glyn win one of Hong Kong’s two Group 1 International Sprints.
That was 2005. Dad claimed December’s Hong Kong Sprint on Natural Blitz. Chad was 11 years old and doing what kids do, especially when under-18’s are not permitted to enter Hong Kong’s racecourses.
“I remember it well,” Schofield said, “you either watched the races from the tree house we’d built in the garden or on television. Natural Blitz was a longshot but I think he won quite easily.” Indeed he did, with the 26/1 shot landing the only win of his Hong Kong career by 1.75 lengths from Planet Ruler,
Come Sunday, Schofield will have a much closer vantage point as he partners G2 Sprint Cup winner Rattan in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m); a horse who provides him with a realistic chance of emulating his father and landing his first G1 win in the home which he has adopted for the second time and, this time, by his choice.
Schofield spent four years, from 2002 to 2006, living in Hong Kong when his father was contracted to ride here and returned - 10 years later - to take up his own contract after establishing his professional reputation in Australia.
The talented and engaging jockey is now well-entrenched among the best riders in Hong Kong - having finished fifth in the premiership last season - but his local highlights package doesn’t yet include a Group 1 - four of which he secured in Australia where he was also the first rider to win both the Sydney and Melbourne apprentice titles.
Given the firsts, aside from the aforementioned distinction as an apprentice, that have frequently earmarked his career it seems more a matter of when, not if, his highest level breakthrough will come in one of racing’s toughest arenas.
Rattan and Chad Schofield out wide winning the Sprint Cup, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Schofield’s four Group 1 wins in Australia came on horses he was riding for the first time. Shamus Award, in Australia’s coveted Cox Plate, who just happened to be the first maiden to win the race; plus Lankan Rupee (Newmarket Handicap), Sonntag (Queensland Derby) and Go Indy Go (Champagne Stakes).
Schofield also managed to be among the winners at the first race meeting at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s new Conghua Racecourse and, if not drawing too long a bow, Rattan was wearing blinkers for the first time when he staked his international sprint-winning claim with his Sprint Cup win. Oh, and it was the first time he’d raced at 1200 metres since his debut run in Hong Kong.
“I’d expect he’d run very well,” Schofield said of Rattan, “this is harder for him at the level weights and with a horse like Santa Ana Lane arriving, but I thought he won on his merits the other day and he came through the race well.
“I galloped him Monday (22 April) on the grass. He had a very light gallop and felt really good. He's come through his win very nicely and taken no harm from it. He recovered really well, he's fresh and in good order at the moment. I’m hoping for a good draw and I'm sure the horse is going to come and run a good race again.”
Like so many before him, Rattan was sourced as a Derby horse but found extending to 2000 metres beyond him, and while he’s won six races at 1400m and 1600m in Hong Kong it just might be that the definitive sprint trip of 1200m proves to be his forte.
“The step back in trip was a winning move. He such an honest horse he can handle 1400 (metres), a mile and even run well at 1800 (metres) but that’s just due to his honesty and ability The way he won last time and with his sectional times with the blinkers on, it’s clear to me that 1200 metres is his best trip. He does have more stamina than most horses in the field so a nice, hot pace would allow him to come and unleash that big turn of foot he’s got.
“I think the blinkers helped but it might have been coincidental. They helped but he’s very honest and has always tried his best so they didn’t turn him around, although they might have switched him on and sharpened him up a length or two,” he said.
Schofield has been aboard the Richard Gibson-trained Rattan in five of his sevens wins and his 7 April success, at G2 level, is arguably the jockey’s finest moment in Hong Kong although there have been several of them despite a G1 success eluding him to date.
He landed four winners at Sha Tin on 18 February last year and was keen to claim one of them - the 4YO Classic Cup on Singapore Sling - as a top level win. “What a day. My four wins and my first Group One – I know technically it isn’t a Group One… but that’s what I’m calling it,” he said at the time.
His first Group 1 win was the 2013 Cox Plate - one of Australia’s two most sought-after races - on Shamus Award and several other memorable moments have included his father. They made history in 2014 as the first father and son to compete against each other in the Melbourne Cup and at Sha Tin on 14 February, 2016 they became the first in Hong Kong to ride against each other - each rode a winner and they quinellaed one race.
Now, the young gun hopes to join dad as an international Group 1 winner in Hong Kong.