When it comes to the next generation of jockey talent, Callum Rodriguez is high on the list of those tipped for big things – and judging by his 2018 campaign, it is easy to see why.
Partnering just 13 winners from his first two years now seems a distant memory for the Catterick-based rider, after enjoying another productive year which has seen his career continue to blossom and mark him out as a star of the future.
Surpassing last year’s total of 39 winners, which included victory in the Ebor at York aboard Nakeeta, was always going to be a tough ask – but it was one that was passed in a season which also saw the 21-year-old ride out his claim, along with bagging two Listed-race victories with Intense Romance.
Rodriguez said: “I’m very pleased and it has been a great year. Looking back at 2017, I had a good year and rode 39 winners and I managed to win the Ebor.
“At the start of this year, I wanted to better my total tally of winners – I had 43 left to lose my claim, which I wanted to do.
“I had it on my mind to try to ride 50 winners and to lose that claim, then try to establish myself without my claim and move my career on to the next level.
“It was bit of a slow start to the year, because the horses didn’t fire for a month or two. Once I got the ball rolling things started to pick up and suddenly I found myself riding winners frequently throughout the week.
“I’ve had some very good support from top trainers in the north like Keith Dalgleish, Iain Jardine and Julie Camacho, who have all been massive supporters of mine, along with the boss, Michael Dods.
“Those trainers were backing me as much as possible and were throwing lots of opportunities at me, even after I lost my claim.
“After I lost my claim I was kept very busy and was getting seven or eight rides a day and was still riding winner after winner.
“The week after I lost my claim, I rode in my first Listed race at Ayr and won that. It was great to get two Listed winners last season and I also passed the 100 career-winner mark.”
With the claim gone the hard work really begins – but having grown up a keen boxer, Rodriguez is well prepared to put in the hard graft over the winter to ensure he gives himself the best possible chance of furthering his career.
He said: “Things never changed from when I had my claim, which was very pleasing, and those trainers that had been supporting me have continued to do so.
“I will be riding throughout the winter, and it is something I discussed with my agent Richard Hale back in June-July time.
“Last year I spent time over in Miami, which was great, but he advised me it was very important this winter once I had lost my claim to keep riding to keep in the back of people’s minds.
“We all know there is a lot more put into racing in the south of the country, and the bigger opportunities seem to be there, but I think there are some good trainers up north and plenty of good racing there and good jockeys, so it would be nice to establish myself among them.
“If it ain’t broke why fix it, so I don’t really to change anything at the moment and moving down south is something I’ve not really thought about too deeply. I’m quite happy with my job and the people I ride for.
“It’s nice to be well-respected at this stage of my career – a lot of southern trainers are using me when sending horses up north, which gives me a lot of confidence.”
As for targets next year, Rodriguez aims to keep it simple and take it a step at a time.
He added: “It starts all again next year, but I think the most important thing is to start where I left off.
“However many winners I end up riding this year, the plan will be to get to that mark again and once I do I will move the goalposts again.
“It will also be a case of trying to put a stamp on things by proving I am equally as good without my claim and step up to riding in higher-grade races more frequently.”