When Matt Hancock was asked if he fancied taking part in a horse race at Newmarket, not long after entering parliament, the Tory MP secured two pieces of advice.
One was from champion jockey Frankie Dettori.
"I was on the horse, warming up before going out on the gallops and I said ‘What’s your top tip, what’s the first thing you are going to tell me?’
He said: “Matt, don’t do it, don’t do it.”
The other - from John Gosden, then champion trainer - is perhaps more apposite, for a man who struggles to hide his ambition.
"John told me this: ‘The thing is that you’ve got out to work who’s looking like they are going to win the race, tuck in right behind them, then at the two furlong marker - and not before - you pull out and you shoot ahead.'
"Timing is everything," he adds.
And so with politics.
On a flight to Bejing, ahead of a meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Mr Hancock ducks the obvious next question: is he aiming for the top? And if so when?
"I am 39 years old and I’ve just been made Health Secretary. That’s quite enough for the moment,” says Mr Hancock, smiling.
He doesn’t deny that he is keenly competitive, if occasionally hapless.
Previous exploits include an attempt to play the most northerly game of cricket - on the North Pole.
This was foiled on two counts; it turned out not to be the first, and rather more seriously, he ended up with frostbite on four fingers.
But Mr Hancock, a former chief of staff to George Osborne, is a survivor.
While other allies of Cameron and Osborne have seen their careers fade, Mr Hancock - a Remainer - and junior minister since 2013 - was promoted from digital minister to Culture Secretary at the start of this year, becoming Health Secretary in the reshuffle in July.
Already, he has shown he is not afraid to ruffle feathers.
He also signalled his frustrations at NHS efforts to block the moves, within hours meeting the head of NHS England for talks about reforming the current system to allow the spread of such systems.
A passionate advocate of tech, Mr Hancock is not afraid of sounding geeky.
Now he is co-hosting WEF’s annual meeting of champions - the “summer Davos” - after flying to China with 12 British technology and healthcare firms.
Among the discussions; how best the world should face the challenges of its ageing population, and the role of technology in meeting those needs.
But the minister suggests that a major shift in attitudes - and a greater emphasis on social responsibility is at least as important.
Later this year, the Government will publish a green paper on social care, tackling the vexed question of how to fund care of the elderly.
Mr Hancock today signals his interest in a new model of funding, based on that of pensions - where it is assumed that workers will pay in to the system, unless they actively opt out.
Such measures would not be without controversy.
However, they might avoid some of the heat around previous proposals.
Last year Theresa May's pledge to extend charges on assets to cover home care was cast aside after being dubbed a “dementia tax”.
It was also blamed for the Tories' poor electoral performance.
The Health and Social Care Secretary suggests the Government needs to learn from pensions, where a political consensus was built, before the “auto-enrolment” system was brought in.
One of the problems with social care- funding for places in care homes, as well as care in the home - is that many people assume the state will pay for it, only to be shocked when informed otherwise, he suggests.
A national care fund, based on the “opt-out” principle could work one of two ways, he suggests.
A system of full insurance would mean individuals would have their care costs covered, if they needed help at home, or ended up in a care home. However, this could mean relatively steep payments, given that average cost of care is around £25,000. An alternative model might mean insurance payments during employment could mean a cap on later care costs.
Either could avoid the situation of catastrophic care costs, with one in 10 pensioners facing bills of more than £100,000, he says.
“It's one of the deepest human instincts to want to protect what you have saved all your life for: I understand that and this approach would allow people to avoid that injustice. “
The option is set to be among a number published in a green paper later this autumn, alongside an NHS 10 year plan.
If timing in politics is everything, so far Mr Hancock’s has been fortuitous.
His predecessor Jeremy Hunt wore the battle scars of a series of junior doctors strikes, and after a long battle to secure extra funds for the NHS was moved to become foreign secretary soon after securing the promise of a £20bn investment from Theresa May.
In the coming months, Mr Hancock will struggle to balance the competing demands for such funds.
For now, he is enjoying surveying the territory, with a series of visits on night shifts with paramedics, and visiting hospitals.
“I've absolutely loved being out on the front line,” he says. “Seeing the camaraderie, the teamwork, the fulfilment - as well as the frustration.”
One such visit earlier this month was particularly significant.
He returned to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, which last year saved his sister Emily’s life, after a major horse-riding head injury.
“Returning was hugely emotional and also cathartic. Her life was hanging in the balance for three, four days. We went back together, Emily and her husband, and of course we had lived through it, whereas she didn’t remember it, but when she saw the doctor again a lot of it all came back."
“I’ve always loved the NHS, but that experience really brought it home.”