Michael Rodd is a Melbourne Cup winning jockey with a fantastic career under his belt so far.
In this episode of Betting 360 the highly respected rider shares some insider knowledge from a jockey’s point of view. You’ll get to hear who Michael truly respects in the industry, his pre-race process of assessing the form and predictions for the upcoming season.
Punting Insights You’ll Find
- What it takes to be a successful jockey and who Michael respects the most.
- How a jockey gets on the better horses.
- How you can ‘read’ Mark Kavanagh
- Why track bias is often over-rated.
- Why Atlantic Jewel and Super Cool are set for big Spring campaigns
Michael’s Closing Tip:
” I do spend a lot more time on form and it gives me a lot more confidence on race day. “
Episode 019: Racing From A Jockey’s Point Of View with Michael Rodd
David: Hi and welcome to Betting 360. I’m your host David Duffield, and every week here I bring on a special guest to look at punting from all different angles. Today I’m pleased to chat with Michael Rodd, he’s the man of the moment with Atlantic Jewel and he’s set up for a very big spring. So I wanted to have a chat to him about what it takes to be a good jockey and how he prepares for a race meeting whether it’s a big day of group racing, or a day down at Bendigo, or Ballarat. So we’ll have a chat with him, and see how an A grade jockey goes about his work.
David: Hi everyone it’s Dave here. And today I’d like to welcome Michael Rodd to the show, how are you going Michael?
Michael: Yeah really well thanks Dave.
David: That’s good, it’s a good time of year. I just wanted to have a chat firstly about your background, and then speak more specifically about the spring. But what do you think it takes to be a good jockey? What do you think separates the best from the rest?
Michael: Look you’ve obviously, you’ve got to be keen to work hard. It’s a very important thing, you know especially if you want to sort of compete on the big stage. You know you’re pretty much going round spring carnival time, or any carnival time you’re going every day. And you know if you’re not at the races, you’re at the barrier trials, or you’re doing replays. So obviously you’ve got to work hard. And then the obvious traits of having good balance, and having nice soft hands, and obviously being able to read a race, you know while you’re in it, and getting on with the horses. So there’s a few things that sort of have to combine there, but if it does, and you know you can be in that top echlon, it’s a great way to make a living.
David: So you mention balance and soft hands. How did you learn those type of skills? Or the other horsemanship, because it’s not like you spent your childhood around horses or anything like that.
Michael: No that’s right. Look I didn’t come from a racing background, and I just learnt from scratch. But the beauty of the way I learnt was that I was taught to be a jockey straight away. I didn’t have any other habits, of say equestrian, or any other type of riding. So I was sort of irons up short, and I was taught to you know, how to be a jockey, to think like a jockey. And look a lot of it has to come naturally. You can’t, you know it’s just like any sportsman, whether you’re playing football, or soccer, or you know you’re a surfer or whatever, you’ve got to have that natural ability, and then you work hard at the other skills that you’re not so good at. But you know obviously the balance, I’ve always had, I’ve been a surfer all my life, and a skateboarder, so that came pretty naturally. And then with your hands, I think that’s just something also that you’re sort of born with. And you know, knowing how to ride on a long rein, and being confident at riding on a long rein. If you rein a horse that’s up too short, you can get them
pulling, and you know if you get them pulling then your race is over. So obviously if you can have soft hands, and have that horse switch off for you, especially in staying races, it takes you a long way.
David: And has your riding style changed much over the years do you think? I mean early on you rode a lot in New South Wales, and Queensland, obviously you’re based in Melbourne now. But you also spent some time riding overseas, so has it evolved much do you think?
Michael: Yeah definitely. Look, I’m always trying to improve my style, improve in every way you can. You watch the best, and that’s you know, that’s who you try and copy. I’ve been fortunate enough, I’ve been able to ride all around the world, so I’ve been up and close, up close and personal with some great jockeys. And it’s not so much asking them, it’s just watching what they do, and you know how they might have their toe in the iron, or how they hold their reins, and how they go for their whip. And just little tiny things that you can pick up along the way, and then put into your own style. And I think most jockeys are always trying to improve themselves, and I’m the same, you know I started out with riding my foot in the iron, and then I evolved to putting the toe in because it’s just a lot better balance. You can get forward, you’re not moving as much on the horse, you know obviously styles have changed over the, especially in the last ten years. Where we’re more about staying balanced, and not doing too much on the horses. Where in the old days you used to, everyone was trying to kick them, and hit them, and do as much as they can. Now you’re just trying to stay balanced, and keep them moving forward, and just urging them on with the whip.
David: You mentioned watching and learning from the best. Which names standout, and which jockeys standout for you? As guys that you’ve either learnt from or otherwise just respect really highly nowadays.
Michael: Yeah look I could start way back to when I first started out. And Michael Cahill was a jockey that I watched up in Queensland and tried to copy him. He’s got great balance, he’s not overly vigorous which is a similar sort of style of mine. And you know he was just a great mentor of mine early on. And then I was able to obviously travel around early as an apprentice, and watched guys like Darren Beadman and Corey Brown. Darren’s very vigorous and very strong, Corey’s very balanced, he’s got a great set of hands. And then I was over in Hong Kong for a while, and the best of the best sort of pass through there. I was there for two years, so I got to see everyone from Frankie Dettori, to Christoph Soumillon, and obviously the local rider over there Douglas Whyte. Who was, well he’s not a local he’s South African, but who dominated. And it’s not so much his style Douglas, it’s just the way he thinks, and the way he runs his business. And that’s something else you’ve sort of got to learn, especially in Hong Kong. It’s not just, you can be the best rider in the world, but if you can’t run a business, you won’t ride winners there.
David: That’s one of Douglas Whyte’s strengths isn’t it? I’ve seen of a bit of tete a tete with Zac Purton and him recently, and Zac seems to think that Douglas Whyte gets a lot of the better rides. But you know he’s won what, thirteen in a row or something up there, so he must be doing a lot right?
Michael: Yeah look, there’s no one that works harder than Douglas. And I was just taken aback with how much trackwork he rides, he’s the first one there, and probably one of the last to leave. He rides track work pretty much 7 days a week there, it’s something that us Aussies we’re a little bit more laid back, we like to have a couple of mornings off, you know especially race day. But he’s just go go go you know, he’s quite tall, but he rides 115 over there, which is about 52 kilos here. Just does an amazing effort, an amazing job, and that’s the sort of stuff you see that inspires you. And look it’s no fluke that he’s won those 13 championships, he’s a very good operator, you know he’s got a very good relationship with most trainers, owners as well. He knows how to handle the local Chinese owners, which can be difficult at times. And yeah look he obviously, he’s teamed up with John Size of recent years, which has sort of helped him boost him along. But he also plans where the horses race as well, so you know he’s also riding them at work every morning, and then he’s mapping out their preparation around himself obviously. But also, wanting to make sure the horses are in races they can win. So look, Zac when he comes back to Australia, if he ever does, I don’t know if he’ll want to, the 15% tax and the prize money over there’s pretty nice to have. So it’s hard to come back to Australia and cop the tax hit that you get here. And you’re not making as big a chunk of the prize money either. But if Zac was to come back, he would dominate back here because he was very good when he left, but he’ll come back ten lengths a better rider.
David: So what led to you being based permanently in Melbourne? Obviously you’d ridden round Australia, and overseas, it’s a few years back now but why did you base yourself here?
Michael: Look it was just by pure luck really. I was in Sydney, and I was, I came back from Hong Kong and I went straight back to Queensland, and just thought I outgrew Queensland a little bit. And wanted to move on, and try and sort of see how I’d go down in Sydney with the big boys. And I was enjoying it, but I just wasn’t enjoying the lifestyle, I was liking the riding, and then I was just lucky. I had a call from Lloyd Williams here in Melbourne, he asked if I’d like to come down and ride for his stable, and I jumped at that opportunity. And I arrived in Melbourne and probably it was October of 2006, and got straight on a Efficient obviously he went and threw them on the Derby. So I had a very good, I kicked off very well here in Victoria. And you know I’ve loved it ever since. Obviously the prizemoney is very good, obviously they’ve got the spring carnival, which is something that you know if you’re based here, you’ve got more opportunity of winning the big races. So once I had a taste of winning a Derby, I wanted to go on and win as many big races as I could. And I’ve had some great support down here, and you know Lloyd was very good to me. And I cut ties with Lloyd and ended up with Mark Kavanagh, and you know the show just kept rolling on. And yeah Victoria, it’s probably not home, I don’t know how long I’ll be here. I could sort of see myself maybe retiring back up in Queensland in ten years’ time or so, if there’s not a stint in Hong Kong in-between, it just depends. But it’s just great for racing down here, and it’s a place I want to be.
David: And what does it take to get on the better horses in Melbourne?
Michael: It’s a lot of luck, definitely a lot of luck. You’ve obviously got to be riding well, and then the opportunities come your way. I’ve been fortunate enough that obviously I rode for Lloyd, so I always had rides in the big races, they’re the only races he really cares about. And then other opportunities came outside of Lloyd, I did a lot of riding for Bart Cummings, won a few Group
One races for him over the spring carnival. You know and then obviously with Mark Kavanagh, the opportunities come, and those big stables, they’re the ones that are getting the half a million dollar yearlings, and the good horses coming through their stables, they’re turning them over, and that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve just got to be getting onto the backs as many horses as you can, and hopefully one of them has enough ability to take you right the way to the top, and that’s all it really is. It’s sometimes just being in the right place at the right time.
And so how do you prepare for a meeting in terms of doing the form, you know speed maps, potential track bias, anything else to give your mount the best possible chance
Yeah look I do my own form. Pretty much do the same amount of form as you know if I was going to Ballarat on a Wednesday, or riding at Flemington on a Saturday. I always, you know I obviously do the replays, go through the field and do my own speed maps. And then I compare them with my, I’ve got a form analyst, which we’re allowed to have here in Victoria. It’s my father in law, Vince Aspinall. He’s been inspirational in my career, especially coming from Sydney to Melbourne, and really kicking me on.
And I always talk to him a couple of times a week, just about upcoming rides, and you know how the race is going to be run. So not only have I ticked all the boxes myself, and gone through and looked at all the horses, and done the main replays of the race. Obviously my horses and chances, then I get to bounce my ideas off Vince, and you know if I’m out somewhere and I think one might have speed, or I’m not quite sure, you know we definitely have every race covered. So it’s very important to, I think any way you do your own form, but I think it’s also important to get an outsiders idea on how the race is going to be run. Because you can’t get it right every time, and it’s impossible to know where every horse is. So I do spend a fair bit of time on the form, and it gives you a lot more confidence come race day. You know each horse, you know their colours, and you’ve got a fair idea on its last runs. And you know then hopefully, if you need to make a split second decision on which horse you want to be following, or when to pop out away from another horse, you’ve done your homework, you know the previous night. And yeah you’re confident of making that right decision.
David: And do you normally walk the track before a meeting?
Michael: I used to be a big track walker when I was with Lloyd, but not so much anymore. Look it’s probably a time thing as well, I just don’t have time from race days to get there. I do struggle a bit with my weight, I’m spending a lot of time sweating before the race meetings. And, look if the tracks are dry, if the tracks are dry then there shouldn’t be too much bias. If they’re wet then you sort of know each track, and how it’s going to play. I do think that they over read track bias in Victoria too much. Coming from Queensland it wasn’t really spoken about too much, but coming to Victoria there seems to be every day. If a leader wins early they’ll say it’s a leaders track, and you know if a horse swoops early and wins, then they’ll say the fence is off. Where it could just be absolute rubbish, you know it might have been related to the tempo, the favourite might’ve won and swooped, and then everyone thinks you’ve got to get away from the fence. So, I think you’ve sort of got to play it as it comes, try and, obviously as the day goes on, the inside can chop out a little bit, and you might want to get away from the fence. But that’s all stuff you can monitor throughout the day.
David: So when you say you think track bias can be, they can go a bit early or exaggerate it, are you saying mainly on the dry tracks that it’s less of a factor? That you know, because if it’s a wet track it can be more pronounced?
Michael: Yeah definitely. Look in Victoria there’s so many experts on everything. And you know there’s track walkers, and you know obviously the punter has a lot of exposed information. And they just crave more information and more information, and I think they over analyse the way tracks are playing. Especially early on when there’s no evidence to say that you know the fence is off. It’s pretty obvious if they’ve been racing on a track and the rail has been in the 9 metre position, and the rail goes back to the true position. Well it’s pretty obvious that you want to be on that inside 9 metre pad. So a lot of the times you can read it without even having to walk. But you know if there is rain, and you know where you want to be with most of the tracks, they sort of, they pretty much stay the same.
David: Tell us about Mark Kavanagh. At times after a big race he can come across a little tongue tied, or eccentric. I’m really not too sure at times how to take him. But what’s he really like?
Michael: Yeah Kav’s got a lot of people a bit pickled with how to take him. And he plays on it a little bit too, he enjoys that. Look he’s a real deep thinker, and he’s a watcher, and he doesn’t say too much. You know you’re really, it’s pretty hard especially if you’re doing an interview with him, to try and get anything out of him. He’ll sort of turn the interview back around on the interviewer, and starts asking them questions. So, look he plays a little game there, and doesn’t let people in too much. But I get on really well with him, I know how to play him. And obviously I’ve spent a lot of time with him, and he’s a fantastic trainer. He’s got a very good eye for a horse, especially at the yearling sales. He can really pick out one whether it’s, you know he’s bought a lot of cheapies like Divine Madonna, and you know there’s a lot of horses that you can go back through that he’s bought at the sales, and would have cost around $50,000. He’s not always there buying the expensive lots, but when he spots one that he likes and he’ll pay whatever he has to, to get it.
David: The cheapies that he’s purchased, is that generally on type?
Michael: Yeah always on type. Look he, obviously buying you know good bodied, correct legs, you don’t want to be buying with any problems. And I mean that’s what everyone sets out to do, but he just seems to have, like a bit of a crystal ball when he’s at the sales in terms of buying the horse. And he can just see how it’s going to grow into itself, and what sort of type it’s going to end up being. Not so much, it might not be the greatest type when he first buys it, but he can see that it’s going to end up being a nice horse. And he’s done that on numerous occasions, and obviously he’s record speaks for itself. You know he’s only been training full time in Victoria for about 6 years, and obviously he’s won a Melbourne Cup, and a Cox Plate. And he’s won numerous other group one races, so you know he’s strike rates incredible, in the high level races.
David: Let’s talk about some of your rides that we expect to have a big impact over the next couple of months, and none bigger than Atlantic Jewel who was so dominant first up, do you
think she’s close to unbeatable this spring?
Michael: Yeah look if she stays sound, it’s just, there’s nothing out there that seems to be able to get close to her. We saw her first up when she didn’t have a great deal of luck. I rode her like the best horse in the race, I didn’t want to get trapped inside so I pulled her out wide quite early, and she put them away pretty quickly, and that was a really good field. Admittedly a lot of them were pretty far off their best distance, but she still, the way she won was great. As she gets up in distance as well up close to 2000 metres that’s when she really comes into her own. You know she can still have that enormous turn of foot at the end of 2000 metres. And she’s a horse, I’ve never seen anything like her before, obviously and no disrespect to Black Caviar, but they’re just two different horses. One’s a sprinter and one of them is a sprinter miler. So you know my mare, if she can stay sound and stay out of trouble then there’s no reason why she can’t stay unbeaten.
David: And how much upside does she have? Because you know to the eye she just looks, you know very very impressive. But then we work closely with someone like Vince Accardi from Daily Sectionals, who says that she still has to find a few lengths on anything that she’s done to win a race like the Cox Plate. So if you really want to let her go one time, and she’s fully wound up, how much upside do you think she has?
Michael: Yeah look, there was still a little bit up my sleeve first up. I don’t know how more impressive she could have been. She’s definitely the type that can win a Cox Plate, I don’t know about how much more improvement she needs to have. But I think she can pretty much stay as she is and she’ll be right, and she’ll be fine in winning a Cox Plate. I’ve ridden in plenty of them, and you know I have never sat on a horse like her, and you know I’ve never seen a horse with her acceleration too. So, she doesn’t have to improve in my eyes, we just got to keep her sound now, and you know obviously just keep her out of trouble like I said. But if we wanted to score right down, I’m sure we could get a bit more out of her. But you know then that’s a risk of her going amiss, and you know she’s very susceptible to injury, so we’ve got to look after her. So you know we try not to screw her down too much.
David: What do you think is her best distance?
Michael: I think 2000 metres. A mile to 2000 metres is her best distance. She hasn’t been any further than 2000 metres obviously, but just with that turn of foot. You know if you drag her out to a Caulfield Cup distance, she might not be as, you might lose that brilliance, but who knows. You know every time we raise the bar she jumps over it, there’s not much she hasn’t done yet. So, who knows, she could be an absolute freak and stay that 2400 metre distance.
David: So she’s the standout, but tell us about another horse that has you excited for a big spring campaign.
Michael: Obviously Super Cool. You know he’s taken a bit of a backseat to her, and he’s flying under the radar. But he’s first up run was enormous, rattling home to run 3rd behind, you know in the Memsie first up there. He’s a very unassuming horse, he’s very laid back in the mornings at trackwork, he only does what he has to do. Come race day he’s just a totally different horse,
he has his game face on, and he gets out there and his action changes, his attitude changes completely. So, no I’m really looking for forward to him going forward, and hoping we can catch a group one with him.
David: And were you happy with December Draw on Saturday?
Michael: Really happy. Look he’s had plenty of time off, he was first up over the mile, and he didn’t have it easy, we got taken on. I would of loved to of been able to steady up a bit, and given him a breather, but he got taken on, and he was still there to the furlong. So I thought it was a fantastic first up run. He’s got a few soundness issues, and we’ve got to be careful there as well with him. So I’m not sure what Kav’s got install for him, but I’m sure they’ll be racing him very sparingly.
David: And what about Charlie Boy, is he a 1400 metre horse, is he a miler, what do you think he is?
Michael: I do, early on obviously they were preparing him for the Golden Slipper, and he was doing a few things wrong, and you wouldn’t of thought he’d get 1400 let alone a mile. But after having a feel of him on Saturday, he did want to get out of the barriers and get running early. But once I was able to switch him off he completely changed his attitude, and just spat the bottle out, and all he wanted to do was just travel, I really had to wake him. Had to wake him up coming onto the course proper, because he was just so relaxed and laid back. But once he switched on and changed gears, he just took off. And it was quite a soft win in the end, he got to the front and rolled around a little bit, there was still plenty up his sleeve. You know if there was something else for him to chase down, he would of chased them down. So he’s a very exciting prospect going forward, hopefully he doesn’t make a liar out of me and he does settle next start. When he steps up a bit of distance and finding the line, and if he does that than Gerald will definitely go to the Guineas.
David: Good stuff. Alright we’ll leave it there for now Michael, really appreciate your time coming on the show, and all the best for the spring.
Michael: Thank you very much for having me.
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