No matter where a jockey is on the Hong Kong premiership change can be rapid, both going up the ladder and coming back down. To even get on the ladder can be tough, let alone climbing it, so arrivals into this cauldron need to develop mental toughness overnight to the task at hand.
Chad Schofield earlier this week was third on the premiership with 16 winners behind Zac Purton with 35 and Karis Teetan with 30, but it is all change very quickly with Vincent Ho and Matthew Poon leaping over him into third equal with 17 winners for the season to-date.
Nevertheless Schofield said he was satisfied with where he was near the top the leader board.
“Very happy, actually the first month of the season I was quiet and for the next two months I kicked on a little bit and I have had two good months in a row. Three months on I am pretty happy with how things are going. In Hong Kong you just need to keep building the momentum,” he said.
Schofield, 24, is now in his fourth season in Hong Kong with the reality being that it takes those early hard seasons to gain the support of the training and owners fraternity.
South African Callan Murray, 20, is on his second visit to Hong Kong and he is starting what Schofield has already been through.
Callan Murray chatting to Beverly Millard as he exits the tunnel, photo Liesl King
A winner for Murray at Happy Valley on Wednesday night was important for not only being his second of the season, but also because it was in front of an international audience in town for the LONGINES HKIR meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday, plus of course the IJC at The Valley on Wednesday night’s programme.
“I love Hong Kong, a great place, tricky though when things are not going your way,” said the former South African champion apprentice.
“It is a very strange place in the sense that if you are riding winners you get the rides, but the moment you get a week or two without a winner it is amazing how the support just drops away. They seem to like the jockey in form and if you are not in form it is a pretty lonely place,” backed up Schofield.
“You have to be strong when it is bad as it can get you head. I live on the course, I see the racecourse every day, it plays on your mind so you have to be strong and keep positive,” said Murray.
While the Happy Valley and Sha Tin on-course audiences and those watching on the world-wide broadcasts watch one of the best meetings in the world with international trainers, runners and jockeys pitched against the best of the locals, it does make it even harder for those further down the ladder.
They have to try and find rides outside of the four Group 1 races making the competition even tougher.
However, Schofield takes the positive road for Sunday’s meeting.
“I only have a couple of rides, but I am in the jockey’s room and I will be amongst it so that is the main thing,” he said.
“It is also great to just experience a meeting like this. It will be my first time, obviously Chad has had an experience of it so it be great for me to see. It will be a big step up from South Africa,” says Murray.
Throughout all this both jockeys appreciate the necessary learning curve that Hong Kong brings.
“You are riding with such quality jockeys, the tracks are tight, there is not much room for error, everything is noticed and it is not often you get second chances. I think you learn to make the most of every opportunity you get,” said Murray.
Karis Teetan, photo Liesl King
Teetan, who rode Mr Stunning early in Sunday’s Sprint contender’s career only to watch as others took over on the horse’s rise to Group 1 status before being reinstated this season, summed up the riding bench’s lot.
“We deal with it. We are here for a long time, you are grown up and be strong in your head and work harder,” said Teetan.