For years Johnathan Parkes lurked among the shadows cast by the best jockeys in the country.

He was a competent apprentice but failed to stamp his mark graduating to the senior ranks. In his first three full seasons as a senior jockey, he amassed a total of 63 wins; his strike rate returning at 15.3, 15.22 and 16.29.

They were numbers that were nothing to be ashamed of, but his was not a name that would get a mention in conversations about the leading jockeys of the time, the likes of McDonald, Bosson, Walker, Waddell, Walsh, Johnson or Tinsley.

How things have changed.


Presently, Parkes sits on top of the heap. He leads the premiership with 65 wins heading into today's Marton Jockey Club meeting at Awapuni at a strike rate of 4.38, almost identical to champion jockey Opie Bosson's current ratio of rides to winners.

In just over five months, Parkes has amassed more wins than he did in the three seasons from 2008-09 to 2010-11 and he's done it with 683 less rides.

He's long odds-on to wrap up the TAB's popular hot holiday jocks competition, having compiled nine winners since Manawatu Cup day on December 22 and he has a strong book today as he looks to add to that tally.

A humble, private man, Parkes has developed the mindset of a winner, a steely determination to compete with the best.

His agent Bevan Sweeney has been a key component in Parkes' rise to success, the pair having linked up in 2013 and last month bringing up 500 wins together. "He's at his peak at the moment, without any doubt," says Sweeney, a form analyst and presenter for TAB Trackside in the Central Districts region.

"He's better than he's been before. I've watched him ride closely this season and there's no doubt he's right on top of his game. He's just got to a point now where he understands how he operates best.

"He knows his body and knows he's a two-meetings-a-week jockey to be at his best. He's not overdoing it and getting twisted about having to travel too much and put himself under too much pressure.

"He used to be quite a hard rider but now he squeezes them up at the 600 (metre mark) and he knows what he's got under him and how best to ride out the finish. His biggest advantage is that he reads a race so well, certainly without peer among the CD riders.


"His mindset is that he's got to ride a horse to the best of its ability for the owners. There's no going out there just to go around. He's giving every horse its best opportunity for success. He just wants to win."

It's an attitude that has made Parkes the punters' darling this season. He has seven rides today at Awapuni, with Sampson, his ride in the Listed Gallagher Marton Cup (2200m), his longest-priced mount at $7.50.

Sinarahma, who Sweeney rates as Parkes' best ride for the day, is a $2.30 favourite in race four, while Miss Labasa is a $2.60 favourite in race two and Darscape Princess is a $3.30 commodity in race three.

Whether he has the motivation or energy of his rivals to chase the rides necessary to secure his first jockeys' premiership title is dubious because Parkes' two-meeting a week philosophy fits his quiet achiever personality.

But that should have no bearing on what he has achieved and will go on to achieve.

He has climbed to the top of his profession and it's now Parkes who is casting shadows.