Hong Kong racing is always a test of character for a jockey riding a losing streak, but as the wealth divide widens between the top riders and the rest, those on the fringes will be praying for relief from the relentless Joao Moreira win-a-thon of recent weeks.
Another five winners on Saturday makes it 15 from five meetings for Moreira – that’s just short of one third of all of the races run so far.
Karis Teetan now has nine wins and in-vogue apprentice Matthew Poon Ming-fai has six, meaning three jockeys have won 30 of the 46 races.
It doesn’t take a maths genius to figure out that the rest are fighting over scraps, with just 16 wins to be shared among the 19 other jockeys to have ridden this term.
Throw in Chad Schofield (three wins), Zac Purton and Tommy Berry (two each), and it’s an astonishing 37 wins to the top half-dozen riders, 80 per cent of the races won by 25 per cent of the jockeys currently licensed.
Look, it’s not meant to be a socialist system where everybody shares the wins around, it’s competition – only the strong survive and all of that, but smaller than average field sizes are certainly exacerbating the problem for those on the outside looking in.
The issues surrounding the extension to 88 meetings have been well-documented, threadbare tracks and tired-looking horses at the end of last season just two, but it isn’t really until now that reality has hit home.
Until Conghua allows expansion, Sha Tin simply does not have the horse population to support the longer season, at least not in terms of sustaining the same quality of racing, or more to the point, quantity, when it comes to field sizes.
With Moreira, Teetan, Poon and Purton in demand, and Berry now first choice for every John Moore ride courtesy of his role as stable jockey, the top end of a race can be quickly filled up, and that leaves the tail end, those given little or no chance in the market.
That means dry spells for some riders and this is where mental toughness comes into play for expat jockeys – all of them are accustomed to winning regularly and most of them champions in one way or another in their own jurisdictions.
A 20-race run of outs in Australia or Britain, where a jockey might ride at three or four meetings in a week, might only last a matter of days, but a two-meeting per week schedule means a losing streak can be stretched to what feels like forever.
Throw in a suspension or two and it can mean a lot of staring at a wall in Racecourse Mansions, wondering whether they will ever ride a winner again.
So it is always difficult for those not in the top bracket, but the start of this season seems particularly severe.
Nobody wants to be the one left stuck on zero either. Vincent Ho Chak-yiu and Keith Yeung Ming-lun both notched wins on Saturday, leaving seven active riders on the dreaded duck egg.
Most of them know the grind all too well, although the lack of support so far for Douglas Whyte is still stunning.
The 13-time champion had just four rides on Saturday, he managed a second on Money Winner, but none of his mounts started single figures in betting.
Those on the outside might be starved of chances right now, but they are made of stern stuff too, including the currently winless Neil Callan, who clawed his way to a spot on the full-time roster through successive winter stints and finished third last season.
It would seem obvious that it will get easier for those struggling – those top-end statistics will surely level out – but last season Moreira and Purton rode a third of the winners between them and neither looks like slowing down.
Of course, it won’t be long before the red carpet is rolled out for some high profile hoops from Europe.
Last season there was a shortage, but let’s hope the club don’t overcompensate this term by overpopulating the jockeys’ room, because those on the fringes – those willing to commit full-time – are already feeling the squeeze.