Horse Racing
Rivals will get the South African touch in G3 Celebration Cup at Sha Tin

By David Morgan
27/09/2018 18:17

Seasons Bloom gets the better of Fifty Fifty to win the G1 Stewards’ Cup.
Seasons Bloom gets the better of Fifty Fifty to win the G1 Stewards’ Cup.

A South African connection will link close rivals Seasons Bloom and Fifty Fifty in the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on Monday, 1 October.

Chad Schofield will ride the Danny Shum-trained Seasons Bloom, while another South African-born jockey, Grant Van Niekerk, is slated to partner Fifty Fifty. Neither hoop has had a race sit on their respective mounts.

Schofield, though, has been a regular aboard Seasons Bloom at track work this term. The rider, now in his fourth season in Hong Kong, partnered the brown son of Captain Sonador through a jump-out down the backstretch this morning, Thursday, 27 September.

“We just took him on the grass, he jumped out of the gates and I let him travel up the straight. He didn’t do too much with the race coming up on Monday, but he’s ready to go,” Schofield said.

“I’ve ridden all of his trials and I’ve been galloping him since the start of the season and he’s fit and well.”

Season Bloom wins the Stewards’ Cup in style.

Seasons Bloom was last seen in April, finishing seventh in the G1 Champions Mile. Monday’s opponent Beauty Generation ˗ fellow top-weight with 133lb ˗ carried off that prize and so sealed Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year title.

The exciting field also includes two of last season’s crack four-year-olds, BMW Hong Kong Derby hero Ping Hai Star (123lb) and Hong Kong Classic Mile winner Nothingilikemore (119lb).

“He’s got top-weight to deal with in a very strong race but I couldn’t be happier with the horse. Danny’s very happy with him, too,” Schofield added.

Fifty’s Group 1 quality

Fifty Fifty opens his Group race account in the G3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup.
Fifty Fifty opens his Group race account in the G3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup.

Fifty Fifty was a half-length shy of Seasons Bloom in the Stewards’ Cup and Peter Ho’s grey has not been seen in action since finishing eighth in the G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) in April. The six-year-old suffered lameness at the end of that month and was sidelined for the most part until he returned to work in August.

Van Niekerk partnered Fifty Fifty to “win” a recent 1200m dirt barrier trial ahead of Beauty Generation (2nd) and Seasons Bloom (6th). He is confident that his mount will confirm his G1 class this term.

“I barrier trialled him and he did that so well, he won it comfortably,” the jockey said. “He’s a horse that gave me a very good feel and I’m very excited to ride him.

Fifty Fifty was first across the line in a recent 1200m dirt trial at Sha Tin.

“I think he will progress because he gave me a Group 1 feel. Peter Ho told me that the horse loves running fresh and that’s what he felt like, so I’m hoping for a great run on him.”

Van Niekerk is pleased and a little surprised with how well he has started the season, having arrived in Hong Kong during the off-season. He currently sits high in the jockeys’ premiership with five wins after just six meetings.

“I just have to build on that start and carry on working as hard as I can. If I keep doing well I’ll get the chances,” he said.

“I didn’t really expect this type of start. I knew that when you first arrive in Hong Kong you have to work your way up to the top but I’ve been blessed with nice chances and usually, if your attitude’s right and you produce the results for trainers and owners, those nice chances will continue to come your way.”

Monday’s 10-race National Day card also features the G3 National Day Cup (1000m), the first Group race in Hong Kong this season. The dash will see last season’s champion sprinter Ivictory (133lb) go head-to-head with his up-and-coming stablemate Hot King Prawn (117lb).