There was no sup of whiskey from the quaich for Chad Schofield after he took the Happy Valley feature tonight (Wednesday, 28 November), not with his evening’s work only partly done, but the rider certainly deserved a celebratory dram after sealing a treble in the Class 4 St Andrew’s Challenge Quaich (2200m).
Schofield left the spirit-filled glasses for the tartan-adorned guests and dignitaries, and as the bagpipes’ drones and chanters played to the race’s 99-year tradition, he reflected on a profitable night.
“A treble’s always good!” he smiled after guiding the Caspar Fownes-trained Smart Baby through a smooth passage to success.
“Smart Baby won really well, he was back on the fence and I had a beautiful run,” he said. “But to the horse’s credit he picked up with the light weight and put the race away quickly. He was all alone the last furlong and it was just a matter of keeping him going.”
The 3.8 favourite passed the wining post a length and a quarter clear of runner-up Happy Rocky, sealing a double for Fownes after Fearless Fire’s win in race four.
“Two in a row – hopefully he’s not finished yet,” the handler said of his Quaich winner. “He’s a progressive horse in that class and he stays all day so there’ll be races for him throughout the season.”
Smart Baby’s victory was a whole lot easier for Schofield than his first on the card, a nostril flaring head-bobber in race two, the Class 5 Kelso Handicap (1650m). Ricky Yiu’s Rookie Star edged out Come On Wongchoy by a nose.
“I got the better of him early in the straight and I was worried, with Victor Wong’s claim, that he might just come back and get me but Rookie Star kept fighting and it was a well-deserved win,” Schofield said of the 5.4 victor.
The middle leg of three came in race three, the Class 3 Ferniehirst Handicap (1800m). Schofield gave the David Hall-trained Flying Quest a smart ride to land the spoils by half a length at odds of 9/1.
“He’s been going really well all season – David Hall’s got him flying and he’s just a really happy healthy horse. It’s great to get another win for David,” the jockey said, having climbed to third in the premiership with 16 wins.
Fownes, meanwhile, was pleased with how his stable is firing at the city track after saddling four winners at the last two midweek fixtures.
“The horses are racing well and it was a good result again tonight,” he said.
Champion jockey Zac Purton was in the plate for Fearless Fire’s success in section one of the Jedburgh Handicap (1200m). That first dip down into Class 4 saw the British import – a stable transfer from Dennis Yip in the off-season – shrug off top-weight and post a cosy first Hong Kong win.
“Zac is obviously a very good jockey and realised he wasn’t going to get in, so he decided to go forward and sat outside the lead. I told him before the race the horse was very fit and he got the job done nicely,” Fownes said.
The trainer was denied a treble of his own when the Chris So-trained Lakeshore Eagle crept down the inside with a quickening run under Douglas Whyte to foil the Sam Clipperton-ridden E Master in section two of the Jedburgh Handicap (1200m). The 8.7 winner gained the distinction of being the first horse out of Conghua to score on career debut.
Wong claimed a double. The 7lb claimer took the Class 5 opener on the Tony Cruz-trained Multimax, who showed street-fighting resolve to reclaim the lead after being headed at the top of the straight. The Me Tsui-trained Telecom Brothers delivered the brace in race seven, the Class 3 Glasgow Handicap (1000m).
Jockey Neil Callan snared his sixth win of the campaign and trainer David Ferraris his eighth when Fantastic Feeling took the finale, the Class 3 Elgin Handicap (1200m).
Some of the world’s best jockeys will assemble at Happy Valley next Wednesday, 5 December for the International Jockeys Championship.