It seems ironic that the Hong Kong Jockey Club has altered the monthly awards system for apprentices at the moment when there might have been some serious competition. Presumably because the award was a walkover most months, it will now be presented for every three-month period, but with Way Leung riding winners at home and Thomas Yeung saluting first time out in Australia, there at least seemed two good cases for any prizes this month. The Jockey Club publicity machine kicked into overdrive after Yeung's win on Saturday and it is no mean feat for a jockey to win at his first attempt anywhere. It would be nice to think that some of the other Hong Kong youngsters in Australia will follow suit and enjoy some successes in their turn, as well as getting a taste of the wider racing world. But before anyone starts to do handstands about the young local jockeys coming through, let's remember it's a long journey to their being collectively competitive with the expats, and the expectations on them should not blow out of proportion after one win in a HK$16,000 race at a track 400 kilometres from Sydney. The records say that Howard Cheng is the best-performed apprentice to come through the ranks in Hong Kong in a long time, yet he has ridden only three winners here since losing his claim in April and is struggling to get rides at meetings just outside Melbourne. In some ways, that is a good thing, a reality check, because he is not undergoing the illusion of stardom that might have occurred if he never left a closed-shop environment like Hong Kong. Seeing how tough it is to succeed in open competition will give him a good perspective when he does return home and an appreciation that there is a lot more to learn. When Leung returned from riding half a dozen winners at similarly low-grade meetings in Australia, there seemed a feeling in some quarters he would somehow come back and take the game by storm in Hong Kong. Clearly a level-headed person, Leung has taken no notice of that and instead continued to do what apprentice jockeys do - learn. Not all teenagers cope so well with the unrealistic expectations of others. The Jockey Club plan to give young riders experience abroad is a sound one and can only lead to a better standard of rider emerging from the apprentices' school. They see sides of the racing industry of which they would otherwise be unaware and appreciate more fully the aspects they do see. Hopefully, one day Hong Kong will be churning out top jockeys like the academy in South Africa seems to do but there's a long way to go.