Jack Wong Ho-nam was watching the Rio Olympics during the off-season when his mind began to wander: he was sick of being “ordinary”, a fire was seemingly lit and the apprentice dared to dream.
It was Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling’s 100m butterfly win over his childhood hero Michael Phelps that most inspired Wong, and the 22-year-old certainly showed some spark on Saturday with a double at the season opener.
“He [Schooling] watched Phelps on the television at the Beijing Olympics and eight years later he beat his idol,” said Wong, who rode 22 winners in his first full season last term. “Something changed with me a couple of weeks ago. I just thought, ‘I can’t just be the same as I have been for the last two seasons.’ I mean, I could just go along and be an ordinary apprentice jockey, but I don’t want that – I want to get some good results and be successful.
“If I want to be a jockey here and stay in this business then I can’t just keep being the same. I had a think about it, I have some more hunger for this season and let’s hope I can keep it.”
Standing nearby during the interview was the intimidating presence of Joao Moreira, and the apprentice wasn’t shy about stating his long-term goal – one day, he wants to beat the two-time champion. And as much as Wong knows it’s a long shot, he added he had made an important realisation about the Brazilian – Joao Moreira is human.
“Of course he is like a god here, but I want to set a target and I would like to someday beat him,” Wong said. “He is a human being, and while he is riding really well, he isn’t a god. He is just down here riding with us, and maybe one day, you never know.”
Wong’s winners were both expertly rated in front, particularly Flying Moochi, but it is Adventurer that seems the most progressive, having now won three in a row after two wins at the back end of last season.
Still, Wong wasn’t as impressed with the effort of Me Tsui Yu-sak’s gelding this time around.
“It’s early in the season, not all of the horses are ready to run – even the time he ran today isn’t as fast as usual. He was ready and maybe a few others weren’t,” Wong said.