Sixteen-year-old apprentice Rasheed Hughes is a young man who is determined to be a top jockey.
Barbados TODAY recently caught up with him at the Garrison Savannah after exercising the four-year-old bay filly, Alina.
The former St Leonard’s student informed he was fully aware that the road to success would not be easy. He said that he knew he had to prove himself as competent and capable, and consequently whenever he got a ride on race days, he gave of his best.
From very young he has always had a love for horses. He said his riding started at the age of six in his home district on horses owned by a neighbour. His talent, ability and dedication were noticed by family and friends, and he was encouraged to hone these skills.
Consequently he went to a riding/show jumping school in St Philip, and then on to the barn of trainer Andrew Nunes who Hughes said was instrumental in helping him to obtain his exercise licence.
Remaining focused, he continued from there in his chosen career and has gone on to be an apprentice. Success for this young man was quick in coming. On May 20 last year he had his first race day ride. It was on Greenly Gone West, a six-year-old bay, “going five”.
Living up to his motto of “seizing an opportunity”, Hughes was not prepared to let this one past. And with both hands, he harnessed the opportunity and won that race. He has won three others since that memorable day.
Along with those successes, Rasheed has had his fair share of disappointments. He spoke of the many times when he was “promised a ride” by a trainer or owner and he became all excited and began to study his horse, the likely opponents, map out strategy and waited for instructions.
“Then I would be told, ‘hold on for now, we going for a more experienced jock’,” he said, adding he obviously would be disappointed but never bitter.
“I take it all in stride and consider it part of the course.”
Hughes stated that such situations made him more determined to give of his best as one was only noticed and recognised “when you have proven yourself.”
Hughes spoke vividly about his first experience astride the top horses which wasn’t very long after his first ride. He recalled his excitement to “do battle with the big ones”.
He was aboard Graeme Hill and the “big guns were going nine”. Among them were AristodemusModimo who finished first and second respectively. Although Hughes did not place, the experience he gained from the exposure was tremendous and has served him well for the future.
He proudly stated during the race he learnt, and fully understood what was meant by the term “a horse that want a lot of riding”. That race gave him the practical knowledge as to what it meant to be aboard such an equine, and today he is fully aware of what it takes to get the maximum out of such animals.
When quizzed about his interest in being a contract rider, Hughes said he had not really given it serious thought. At present his desire is to gain as much experience as possible and take full advantage of his seven-pound claim.
However should the opportunity arise and should he have a choice he would love to ride for Andrew Nunes. Asked why, he said: “ I owe the butcher.” He went on to explain that Nunes, whom he respectfully refers to as the “butcher”, in addition to assisting him with his career, was “naturally a good man”.
As to what advice he would give aspiring jockeys, Hughes said: “It is no sport riding horses, your life and others are at stake. You must be serious and have a love and passion for horses. Above all you must be disciplined, watch your weight and be willing to learn.”
With respect to what is on the horizon for the young talent, he said developing his riding skills, preferably at Woodbine, and a Gold Cup victory.