Callum Shepherd looking for further improvement after move to Newmarket pays off
It was a gamble that paid off handsomely – and now Callum Shepherd is hungry for more success.
After becoming somewhat disillusioned with life in Lambourn, the 23-year-old jockey decided to make the move to Newmarket at the back-end of 2019.
With rides at his Berkshire base proving increasingly hard to come by, Shepherd found that he was spending more and more of his time on the gallops and in the yards at racing’s HQ.
He also struck up a relationship with the Gredley family, to the point that he took up the position as their retained rider.
And the relocation has so far proven to be a fruitful one, with 2020 Shepherd’s best year to date.
He rode a total of 77 winners, 20 more than his previous best, set in 2018.
“My relationship with Charlie Hills had pretty much come to an end by the start of 2019 and the only yard I had a real association with (in Berkshire) was Mick Channon,” he said.
“I found myself commuting to Newmarket more and more, riding out regularly for Saeed bin Suroor, David Simcock and Michael Bell.
“Then the link with the Gredleys came about and it just made sense (to move to Newmarket).
“It’s paid off massively. The whole dynamic of who I’m riding for has changed for the better.
“I’ve been able to build up some relationships that I hope will be in place for a long to come. I had pretty high expectations before making the move and there were obvious reasons why I decided to do it.
“There would have been some disappointment had I not ridden plenty of winners, but to have 77 in a year that started late because of Covid, I’m thrilled with those numbers and it has exceeded my expectations.”
While a big-race victory eluded the Gredley/Shepherd combination last year, it was not without highlights.
The family had 11 wins at a strike rate of 17 per cent on the Flat, and Shepherd is hopeful of another productive campaign.
“I’m very much enjoying it – they are a pleasure to work for,” he added.
“It’s good to be more involved with horses at the early stages, helping decide which direction they’ll go in and what races they run in.
“The Gredleys are used to high profile winners but perhaps we didn’t have the Group horse last year. Still, we still managed to have a good strike rate.
“They are not going to have as many horses this year but there is still some good ones.
“Will there be another Big Orange or James Garfield in there? Who knows, but it looks like being an exciting year.”
On a personal level, Shepherd is also eager to move to the next level over the coming months.
He already has a couple of Listed race wins under his belt, so now he has Group glory in his sights.
“I need to build on the numbers but top of the list is to get on the scoresheet in a Group race,” said Shepherd.
“Look at Hollie Doyle, she hadn’t won a Group race before 2020 and now she’s won a fair few, including a Group 1.
“It goes to show that if you can work hard and get that breakthrough, it opens doors.
“I’m hoping in 2021 I’ll be getting more rides at the top level and success follows on from that.”