It is a tough task to carve out a successful riding career away from the big meetings – but Jack Mitchell is living proof that it can be done.
Mitchell rarely finds himself centre stage at high-profile weekend tracks.
When it comes to identifying a go-to jockey to get the job done elsewhere, though, the 30-year-old has ensured he is top of many trainers’ lists.
A trip to Redcar, on a day when action is taking place at York or Ascot, may not be the most glamorous assignment – but that is the bread-and-butter staple for Mitchell, who recently celebrated the 400th winner of his career.
He has made a pragmatic choice, and established a highly successful niche.
“If there is a big Saturday at say York or Newmarket, everyone wants to be there,” said Mitchell.
“When I go up north or to the smaller meetings, I’m going there for the nicer rides and usually a full book.
“I would much rather be doing that instead of trying to ride in say a couple of handicaps on a big card down south.”
Mitchell was quick to realise the opportunity when it first presented itself.
He added: “This sort of mindset all started a few years ago, going up to ride an odds-on shot in a novice at Redcar – and from there it has all progressed.
“I’m also getting rides for different trainers – and I think switching agent to Steven Croft has helped, especially when it comes to the northern trainers and especially over the last year.”
Through plenty of hard graft, Mitchell has managed to cement connections with three powerful Newmarket yards.
“I’ve always been a busy fellow, riding in the mornings for whoever I can,” he said.
“It is nice having the support of Roger Varian – he has three jockeys, but you know you are always going to sit on nice horses. The same applies to Hugo Palmer and Simon Crisford.
“Although I’m not a number one jockey anywhere, when I ride for them, you are riding quality.
“It is a nice position to be in. There is a lot of graft in the mornings, but it is great riding for people like that – and being in Newmarket makes it easier to ride for more trainers.”
Having been banned for six months in 2011 after testing positive for cocaine, Mitchell might easily have slipped off the radar or even out of the game entirely.
But with a willing attitude and a work ethic to match, that was never going to be the case for the father of two.
He added: “I’m very proud of getting away from everything that happened back then and working my socks off to get back where I want to be.
“It’s not been easy, but all I wanted to do was have a career riding – and riding as many winners as I can.
“It’s a hard enough game, with lots of disappointments, but I just never dropped my head. I just got on with it.”
Racing runs through the veins of Mitchell, whose father is former Epsom trainer Philip Mitchell.
He said: “I look up to my racing heroes like Mick Kinane and people like that, but dad gave me a good stepping stone.
“I started riding work up the Epsom gallops when I was 12 or 13, and I would be riding two lots before I went to school most mornings.
“When I was a kid he told me to go amateur, then go on to be an apprentice, and I’m thankful for that. When I look back I was in a very fortunate position.”
Finding one good horse and managing to keep the ride is something Mitchell is working towards – having seen first hand how the globe-trotting Running Stag furthered his father’s career.
“Running Stag was a grand horse – and he was bought out of another yard, where he was a pacemaker at the time,” he said.
“He achieved a lot and earned a lot, especially in America. Dad didn’t have the biggest yard in the world, but what he achieved from a small stable in Epsom with Running Stag was pretty special.”
With last year’s personal best tally of 66 looking set to be eclipsed, Mitchell has set himself a target he hopes to reach by the end of December.
He said: “I’ve said if I can get to 80 winners this year, that would be a realistic number – then I can just build on that and go from there.
“If I reach that target then it would be mission accomplished for the year.”