When you head over to the races to bet on one of the horses, there are several factors you look at – the form of the horse, the track conditions, the best racing odds and, of course, the jockey. The quality and skill of the jockey are pivotal – and here we look at the best horse jockeys in the history of horse racing.
7: Laffit Pincay Jr
This Panamanian Jockey was born in 1946 and has boasted 9,530 career wins, 7 Breeders’ Cup Wins and $237,120,625 in earnings. He dominated the sport in the US in the 1970s, crowning his achievements in 1978 when he partnered with Affirmed to take the US Triple Crown.
He retired as the most successful ever in terms of winners, having only been surpassed since by Blaze.
6: Frankie Dettori
One of the biggest names in horse racing is the Italian jockey Frankie Dettori, born in 1970. In his career, he has tallied over 3,000 wins, over 250 Grade 1 wins with more than £155,000,000 in earnings.
Dettori has been famed for flying dismounts and his 20-year association with the worldwide thoroughbred racehorse operation, Godolphin. In his career – which is still very much in progress, he has pretty much done everything – and is certainly well-worth being on the top-jockey list. With 6 victories, he has ridden more Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners than any other jockey. He has even been a three-time UK Champion Flat jockey!
5: Mike E. Smith
American Mike Smith was born in 1965 and has enjoyed 5,559 career wins including 26 Breeders’ Cup Wins – tallying up around $328,329,509 in earnings. As if to prove that age is but a number, in 2018, he partnered with Justify to win the US Triple Crown at the age of 52. He may have been nearing the end of his career, but it was still one of its major highlights.
He is most famous for his Breeders’ Cup success having won 26 races at the US premier Flat thoroughbred meeting. He also set a new record for the most American Grade 1 wins at the end of 2019.
4: Sir Gordon Richards
Sir Gordon Richards is a UK jockey that was born in 1904 and racked up 4,870 career wins including 14 British Classic Wins. This 26-time champion enjoyed a long and glittering career, having set a record that still hasn’t been broken. After retiring from racing, he went on to become an excellent racehorse trainer.
His most famous equine partnerships from the 40s were Sun Chariot, winner of the Fillies’ Triple Crown and Tudor Minstrel.
3: John R Velazquez
The Puerto Rican jockey was born in 1971 and has won 6,165 times in his career, with 16 Breeders’ Cup Wins, earning around $415,609,389. He has boasted more than 6,000 winning rides and is still in the hunt for the US Triple Crown. It is only the Preakness Stakes that has eluded him to date. His most famous equine partners are Kitten’s Joy and Scat Daddy.
The UK’s Lester Piggott was born in 1935 and has enjoyed 4,493 career wins, with 30 British Classic Wins under his belt. He has had a hugely long and successful career in the UK, Ireland and Internationally.
He has won 30 British Classics including the UK Triple Crown in 1970 with Nijinsky. He is also 11-time UK champion Flat Jockey and even has an award named after him in the sport. He holds the records for most victories in numerous races including the Ascot Gold Cup and Coronation Cup.
1: Bill Shoemaker
This USA jockey was born in 1931 and tallied 8,883 career wins – earning $123,375,524 as a jockey and over $3,700,000 as a trainer. He has ridden 11 US Triple Crown winners and had a career strike rate of over 21% – so basically around one out of every five horses he rode, won. He now holds a place in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. That is why he is considered the greatest of all time.