New apprentice Jack Wong Ho-nam admits one of the biggest adjustments to riding in Hong Kong is simply not being in awe of his high-profile rivals on race day, so maybe it was appropriate that the first face he saw after piloting his maiden winner was superstar rider Joao Moreira.
It took Wong 12 rides to break through for his first victory as a Jockey Club-licensed apprentice as Dane Patrol, a horse on which he came close to winning on two weeks ago on his first day of riding, led all the way in a Class Three straight race.
Looming late on Wong's outside was Moreira aboard odds-on favourite Country Melody, who missed the start and struck traffic in the run - prompting Dane Patrol's trainer Paul O'Sullivan to quip with a grin: "Once I saw it was Jack Wong and Joao Moreira fighting it out in the finish, I knew we would be fine."
Wong most recently rode for O'Sullivan's brother Lance in New Zealand, the 21-year-old riding 36 winners from 443 starts, but there is a steep learning curve between competing at sleepy midweek meetings at Matamata and the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Sha Tin.
"The style is totally different and it is going to take some more time to get used to it," said Wong, who is riding with the benefit of a 10-pound weight claim. "There's a little bit more pressure, with all of those top jockeys behind me.
"The first furlong, they go way harder than in New Zealand and it is very tight. I just want to stay out of trouble, keep patient and quiet, and keep improving. My boss Me Tsui [Yu-sak] keeps going though the videos with me to see how I can improve."
Wong deflected all praise to O'Sullivan for improving the eight-year-old 56-start veteran Dane Patrol since his narrow last-start defeat to Disciples Twelve.
Indeed, O'Sullivan's one-dimensional charge - who had been with three trainers prior to his current base - will be back in Class Two tomorrow and possibly rated higher than he has ever been before.
Dane Patrol's ninth career victory continued O'Sullivan's remarkable comeback season, giving him a double after Kids And Win broke through in Class Four and made it three straight wins.
The trainer's former apprentice Derek Leung Ka-chun has been aboard Kids And Win each time and while he admits there has been an element of "right place, right time" with the horse, the jockey said the five-year-old's forward racing pattern at least gave him a chance in more races.
"There's nothing special about the horse, sure, but he is always handy and that helps him," Leung said. "That way at least it is up to the others to catch you."
Kids And Win was an off-season stable transfer from Andreas Schutz but a humble O'Sullivan would hear nothing of him somehow improving the Irish import.
"The shoe has been on the other foot plenty of other times, with horses moving the other way," O'Sullivan said.
"Sometimes horses just need time to adjust and he has come to me with his rating already dropped and acclimatised a bit. Had it not been for patient owners, the same thing could have happened to me with horses like Santa Fe Sun or Aerovelocity when they didn't find form right after arriving."