The fact that Michael Rodd is returning to Queensland means that the gun rider’s career come full circle … and what a circle it has been!
With forty-six Group 1 wins behind his name … thirty-four in Australia, ten in Singapore and two in New Zealand … Rodd has long been a rider on the elite level with his high level of achievement punctuated with wins in the Melbourne Cup (on Efficient in 2007) and the Cox Plate (on Maldivian in 2008).
Rodd’s launching pad for all of that came in the early 2000’s in Queensland where Rodd served his apprenticeship under the astute tutelage of trainer Bryan Guy.
Rodd seldom talks about his career without giving credit to the Guy family who ‘adopted’ him in what was then the very much more strict master-apprentice relationship than is in play today … and Guy has similar praise for the jockey he mentored.
“Michael coming back to Queensland is a great thing for Queensland racing,” said Guy. “It’s adds further depth to the riding ranks. I think it is absolutely terrific.
“When somebody with a high profile like him comes in it should make the others sit up and think … geez, we’ve got to lift our game here if we want to get or keep our rides. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of a shake-up.”
It was back on January 5, 2000 that Guy, whose stable was based at Rosehill at that time, gave Rodd, then obviously a very green apprentice, his first ride in a race aboard Tornado Lass, at Gosford. The horse finished second with Rodd later admitting in a John Tapp podcast, that it finished second … ‘with no help of mine … I was just lucky that the horse knew it had to keep turning right.”
Guy could relate to that story.
“When he was learning to ride, we had an old pony there in the stable,” said Guy. “If you could ride the old pony you were doing well. Every morning someone would shout out … ‘oh, he is off again, here comes the pony.’ But Michael kept getting on.
Guy also gave Rodd his first winner … on the same horse on which Rodd had his first race ride, Tornado Lass, at the Grafton Carnival.
And while Rodd was learning he was also immediately well liked.
“Both at Rosehill and when we relocated to the Gold Coast … everybody took a shine to Michael,” said Guy. ‘
“He wasn’t one of those who would go to the track and not say anything. He would walk through in the morning and always say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’ when somebody rode past. He was a happy kid. A lot people took to him because of his attitude.
“He was just a nice young man and he was very much part of our family during his apprenticeship … as much as you can be part of the family without actually being family. He even came on holiday with us to Hong Kong.
Initially, at the Gold Coast, a big percentage of the horses in the Guy stable were ex-Sydney horses whose form was stronger than the locals, so the winners started to roll in for the young rider. That is where Rodd claims he really learnt his craft by getting on the right horses which helped progress his education as a jockey while also boosting his confidence.
And things moved pretty quickly from there.
Three Brisbane Apprentice Jockey Premierships and one Open Brisbane Jockeys Premiership followed.
“I think the first time we took him to town he rode a treble,” said Guy. “He is a kind rider … and he has got that knack that horses seem to run for him … and, since he got going, that has always been the case.
“It was not just the big wins that made Michael into what he is,” offered Guy.
“When he moved from Kerry Walker, where he started out, to join our stable at Rosehill it was intimidating for him. When he went to Hong Kong (for eighteen months over a 2004 to 2006 period) he went at a very young age. He was probably there too young I would say, but he worked hard.
“Wherever he went, he was prepared to learn and improve with the intention of coming out of the other side as a better rider and that work ethic obviously helped him to become good enough to take full advantage of the big race opportunities when they came his way.
“It will be nice if he can get on a couple of horses of ours when he comes up here. I hope that happens … but, of course, he is going to be in great demand.
“I think Michael can be enormously proud, both his achievements and the person he is.”
“As I said, his return is a boost for Queensland racing,” concluded Guy.