So finally gets his Award as he joins seniors
Ben So Tik-hung had already been stranded on 69 wins for more than a month, but making the wait for the 70 even more agonising was the fact that he was the last of his apprentice class to graduate to the senior ranks.
The 25-year-old finally out-rode his claim with win number 70, scoring for his master Peter Ho Leung on Mr Award, and quickly breathed a sigh of relief.
So arrived at the Hong Kong Jockey Club apprentice training, straight out of school and with no knowledge of racing, along with three other hopefuls - Matthew Chadwick, Derek Leung Ka-chun and Keith Yeung Ming-lun. His classmates had all graduated and So was delighted to join them, but knows the hard work of competing on more equal terms with senior jockeys now begins.
'We all started on day one, we learned to ride together and I'm the last one to graduate,' he said.
'I know that it is going to be harder now without the claim, but I want to keep doing well.'
Hong Kong Jockey Club executive director of racing Bill Nader was at So's presentation, and labelled the group of local riders he graduated with as 'once in a generation'.
'What a terrific class ... it is just phenomenal and the best Hong Kong has ever seen,' he said. 'Hopefully we can get another class like that sometime in the next 10 years, but it will be hard to duplicate.'
So spent time in Western Australia during his apprenticeship, but admits he arrived back in his homeland still green, and credited Ho with educating him on the finer points of racing.
'Over there the racing is nowhere near as tough and competitive as here,' he said.
'When I came back here, I really had to start to learn fast and my boss had to teach me a lot and give me encouragement, he was always saying 'don't give up'. And when I arrived here, I knew nothing, but my boss stuck with me and I really thank him for that.'
Ho stressed the need for his former apprentice to show other trainers a consistent work ethic.
'The trainers need to see you there working hard, seven days per week,' he said.
'He has to work so much harder now, Alex Lai [Hoi-wing] came through my stable and I told him the same thing.
'Ben has improved a lot, he is getting more mature, stronger and more sensible. He is a good boy and I hope he can keep it going and not do any silly things after he graduates.'
Mr Award made his local debut off a rating of 80 on International Day in 2010 and had his rating plummet from 80 down to 32 to start this season, but the four-year-old has now won three races since.