"It's the beginning of the season, all the horses are more or less on a level playing field and it's a very tough race," Millard said. "He's not a 1200 metre horse but you have to start somewhere and we're going to give it a go."
But while the distance may be on the sharp side, Elusive State has stamped himself as one of Hong Kong's premier dirt horses, winning four races on the belt for his handler to rise more than 30 points in the ratings, a sequence which prompted talk of a Dubai Carnival tilt last spring, and a possible run in Korea this weekend, only for injury to halt his progress.
"We had a little bit of a hiccup with him during the season but he ran very well on the last day, we were looking at it but it just didn't pan out, I was of the opinion that he needed another run and there just wasn't enough time," the South African said in relation to this Sunday's KOR G1 Korea Cup (1800m).
Joao Moreira will reunite with Elusive State for the first time since the gelding scored for former trainer Derek Cruz in July 2018. The Brazilian has been as impressed as Millard with the horse's improvement.
"Tony Millard took him and he's improved amazingly and I just hope that he can keep on improving as he has been, and, if he does, he's probably very capable in such a strong race," Moreira said.
The three-time champion jockey has only partnered Elusive State once but that brought a dominant five-and-a-half-lengths score.
"When I won on him it was a Class 4 and he just won so impressively, we all knew he was going to carry on winning races," he said.
Sunday's assignment isn't the easiest of kick-off points, coming up against the unbeaten Jimmy Ting-trained Yee Cheong Baby (133lb), perennial place-getter Raging Blitzkrieg (130lb), Loving A Boom (120lb) and Sunny Boy (119lb).
"Jimmy Ting's horse seems to be the horse to beat but my one has proven himself on the dirt very well and I just hope that he can perform at his best," Moreira said.
Fig needs luck
With four entries for Millard on Sunday, he and Moreira will also team up with Silver Fig (122lb) in the Class 3 Seymour Handicap (1200m).
"I've obviously never been on him at the races, but if he produces the feeling he's been giving me at trackwork, I think he will be right there with them," Moreira said.
Millard was equally happy with the grey son of Hard Spun's progression from last season and is hoping luck plays a big role in Sunday's contest.
"He's done nicely, he's got a nice draw and also the race is very tough, these races are not easy so we just need a bit of luck," Millard said.
The opposition Silver Fig will need luck against includes another consistent galloper, Coby Oppa (130lb), the mount of Karis Teetan, who will be searching for his fourth course and distance win.
"He had a brilliant last season, he's a horse that enjoys the dirt so I'm looking forward to riding him again," Teetan said.
The Frankie Lor-trained gelding is by The Factor who won the G1 Malibu Stakes (Dirt) at Santa Anita, so it's no shock that he has taken a liking to the surface.
"I still think he has some improvement to come and although he won a few races last season, he did a few things wrong and I think he could be a better horse this season," Teetan added.
Alberto Sanna's career in Hong Kong hasn't been smooth but the Sardinian is hoping to put the woes of two injuries last season behind him as he embarks on what he hopes will be a career-defining 2018/19 campaign.
"I'm not worried about my licence because I know I'm an able jockey and if I am riding nice horses I will be able to win the races as I showed when I arrived in Hong Kong for my first stint, I did well, so if I stay healthy there are no worries and I will keep going," Sanna said.
Sanna has totalled 25 wins across three seasons, his most recent yielding just six due to his spells on the injury list but with trust in his ability he is confident his good fortune will return.
A book of five rides on Sunday will be highlighted by the mount on Big Fortune (128lb) in the Class 4 Tung Wah Group Of Hospitals Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m), trainer Douglas Whyte's only runner on the day.
"The trial was average, he was ok, I didn't do a lot of work on him because obviously the trainer always rides him, so I hope he is fit enough to run a good race," Sanna said.
The 34-year-old Italian has been impressed by Whyte's training and is relishing the opportunity to ride for Hong Kong's newest trainer.
"I've been around the stable for a while and he (Douglas) spends a lot of time around his horses – in the morning, the evening – and for me it's a big pleasure to stay around him and ride for him," Sanna said.
Bayliss bounces back
Regan Bayliss put an end to two months of frustration last Sunday with a win on opening day aboard Adonis and the young Australian hoop is determined to keep on rolling into the new season.
"I obviously got an injury two months out from the end of last season, which was quite frustrating, but the hand has healed very well, I haven't had any trouble with it since I've been back," Bayliss said.
That injury shortened his debut campaign but an opening day winner for Whyte uplifted the 21-year-old.
"I've been riding plenty of trackwork and it was good to get a winner on the first meeting back for Douglas Whyte," he said.
Bayliss heads into Sunday's Sha Tin meeting with two rides – as he did on opening day – the second of which is in the Class 2 Po Yan Handicap (1200m) aboard the ultra-consistent Raging Blitzkrieg (130lb) for champion trainer John Size.
"We all know he races well on the dirt, he's a model of consistency and although he's drawn a touch awkward in barrier 12 in a competitive race, he is trained by John Size and I'm sure he'll be around the mark," Bayliss said.
Sunday's 10-race card at Sha Tin commences at 12.45pm with the Class 5 Bonham Handicap (1200m). Two simulcast races from Korea including the KOR G1 Korea Sprint and KOR G1 Korea Cup, featuring Hong Kong hopes Ugly Warrior and Glorious Artist will also be broadcasted.