GROWING UP FAST
CHAD Schofield is 21 but says he feels 28.
It’s been a rollicking, at times heartbreaking, journey for a one-time rough diamond who is now mid-transit on his career and life odyssey.
Schofield has just returned from 11 weeks in England, based in Newmarket, and a cameo back in his home town of Durban in South Africa.
He rides for three weeks in Melbourne, beginning at Flemington tomorrow, before a six-month stint in Hong Kong.
In many ways Schofield retracing his life path.
He grew up in Durban and spent a few days there recently, riding at the famous July meeting, and caught up with mates he hadn’t seen for seven years.
“It had been so long, it was great. They all came to the races to see me ride,’’ he said.
Schofield left South Africa at 14 and spent four years in Hong Kong, where his jockey father Glyn was contracted.
There will be a sense of homecoming but also a determination to match the greats.
“They (Joao Moreira, Douglas Whyte etc) are the best jockeys in the world. It will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it,’’ he said.’’
Schofield is young, but there is a sense his career has reached a major juncture, from the rollercoaster of the past two years to great maturity and clarity.
The early part of his apprenticeship was a breeze, cruising down from Sydney as a 17-year-old, slotting in as stable rider for David Hayes, running third in the premiership.
When he controversially split with Hayes two years ago, Schofield appeared to some, including chief steward Terry Bailey, a kid in a dangerous rush.
“It became one thing after another,’’ Schofield said of a series of on and off-track woes.
Big wins, such as Shamus Award in the 2013 Cox Plate, came amid numerous run-ins with Bailey over his aggressive riding style, which led to a spate of careless riding charges and two for the far more serious offence of improper riding.
He was defiant, putting him at odds with Bailey.
There were also the terrible falls; a broken back, neck, both arms, a wrist and an elbow. Then, in April last year, his sister Whitney’s husband, jockey Nathan Berry, died.
For a teenager, Schofield had accumulated a great deal of baggage. “A learning curve. Hopefully my life has turned the corner. It toughened me up,’’ he said.
Travel offers no escape from heartache, but Schofield’s recent forays have provided perspective, particularly on the nuts and bolts of racing and riding.
He rode out for Ed Dunlop at Newmarket for 11 weeks, winning twice from 25 rides on the magnificent tracks of England, including the famously undulating Epsom Downs.
He learnt skills he says will keep him away from Bailey’s door, learnt more about horses and the casual patience of trainers such as Dunlop.
“I loved riding out in the mornings, an hour on each horse. They’d travel out in a herd, down a street, and the horses enjoyed every minute of it,’’ Schofield said.
He said jockeys rode in a rhythm, “working through their gears, all about getting them to travel’’, and were in less of a hurry than jockeys here, including his former self.
“One thing I learnt and will definitely bring back is the whip is the last resort. And the bump. I now realise how costly it can be to a horse,’’ he said.
“I think I’m a smoother rider now.’’
When Hayes hired Schofield as his stable rider, the wise old heads scoffed; a baby-faced teenager thrown to the wolves.
Hayes knew something but the diamond was rough. Now, at his feels-like age of 28, Schofield is on his way.