Sam Clipperton knows he's going through "a tough stage at the moment", but he hasn't given up defending his Sydney apprentice title after a hit-and-run mission at Kembla Grange on Saturday.
Forced to take four rides at the provincials as the country's top jockeys flex their muscles in the Sydney spring carnival, Clipperton booted home a winning double in a rare appearance on the South Coast.
The gun apprentice has reduced his claim to one-and-a-half kilograms in Sydney and is without an allowance outside of metropolitan meetings.
"There's so many jockeys and apprentices - particularly the apprentices who claim three and two kilos - I sort of get shoved out the back door now," Clipperton lamented. "Coming back down here it allows me to ride [for big stables].
"The two trainers I rode for were [Peter] Snowden and [John] O'Shea. I've ridden plenty for them before and if I can ride a few winners for them without a claim it proves to them [my ability] and maybe gives me a bit more of an opportunity a bit further down the track when the spring moves to Melbourne."
Aided by the help of renowned jockey mentor and master Ron Quinton, Clipperton took all before him to win his first apprentice title in Sydney last season. But a frustrating start to the new season has done little to dampen his enthusiasm for a title defence, with his sights still firmly set on establishing himself in Sydney.
"That's a big goal of mine," he said.
"It was great doing it this year, but if I can do it two years in a row coming out of my time that will be a big boost winning the premiership and going straight into being a senior jockey.
"It's a matter of working hard and trying to establish myself. I think it's going to take plenty of time and patience, but I think it's going to work out in the long run."
Clipperton drove a raw Cancel ($4.20) to victory in the first for Darley, bouncing well from a wide alley before finding enough in the straight to see off the challenges of Best Dance Yet ($18) and Maquillada ($4.40).
"About 100 [metres] to go she spotted the trucks and thought it was home time," Clipperton said. "She wanted to load herself in the truck, but it was a nice little win considering what she did."
He then repeated the dose three races later when the resuming Hey Hey Renee ($2.60f) broke her duck in the Maiden Handicap (1200m).
The John O'Shea-trained mare fetched $120,000 as a yearling, but it wasn't until she collared the leaders inside the furlong pole - at her fifth start - could connections breathe a sigh of relief."
"She went past them like she was going to win by six [lengths] and then I got there and she just had nothing to chase," Clipperton said.
"It was a competitive little maiden and I think it will turn out to be a very good form race."
Meanwhile, Taylor Marshall, son of Melbourne Cup-winning jockey John, reduced his claim to two kilograms after racking up his 20th career win aboard Aroused ($3.50).
Marshall whisked Allan Denham's five-year-old to the front in the Benchmark 65 Handicap (1000m), before packing plenty to safely hold Zocalos ($2.70f).
"Hopefully we can keep working on things and polish off my riding," Marshall said.
"[Dad's] a great help. He's obviously been there and done that and any experience I can refer to him on is a big help.
"It's always good to have him there for the support."