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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


From HRI FOREIGN STAFF — Measuring the success of famous horse jockeys is difficult, as different metrics shine a light on different superstars of the sport.

The names would all shake out differently, whether prize money, total wins or victory in the top races. There are issues with career longevity, different riding styles, and the changing times and technology in the sport.

Therefore, whoever we list here will be contentious, but we guess that is all part of the fun.

PowerPlay Canada:

Bill Shoemaker

Considered one of the best jockeys ever to ride a horse, Shoemaker rode 11 US Triple Crown winners and earned well over a hundred million dollars with his 8883 wins.

He won one in every five races he rode in, and he, therefore, hits the heights of this list. He continued his influence on the sport as a highly successful trainer after 41 years of being a jockey.

Lester Piggott

When asking an everyday person on the street in the UK to name a jockey, Lester Piggott will be the name they can call up straight away. Piggott is a legend of the sport, mostly because of his longevity in the sport but also because of his success around the world. He was an 11-time UK champion Flat jockey and won the Epsom Derby nine times, the most in history.

Known as The Long Fellow, no one has ever been able to imitate his riding style to this day.

Sir Gordon Richards

Richards was a 26-time champion, making it impossible to miss him off the list of the greatest jockeys of all time. Born in 1904, he rode in a different era and still has a record on 14 British Classic Wins that is unlikely ever to be broken. His wins on Sun Chariot and Tudor Minstrel are possible the best horse and rider partnerships through history.

After retiring from being a jockey, Richards became a highly successful trainer. His stables in Penrith on the edge of the Lake District are run by his son Nicky.

Mike E. Smith

What helped Smith rise the ranks of the greatest is his rides at the age of 52 when he brought the horse Justify in to claim the US Triple Crown in 2018. While this was undoubtedly the highlight of his career, he had great success in the Breeders’ Cup and won 26 races at this premier Flat thoroughbred meeting in the US.

Smith broke the record for the most American Grade 1 successes in the saddle in 2019 – sealing his place in history.

Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori is a superstar of horse racing. Not only is he a great rider, but he is also a huge personality and did much to popularise the sport for the masses. While his legend is secured thanks to his flying dismounts, his record of wins should not be ignored with his over 250 Grade or Group 1 wins.

Dettori has won almost everything you could list in Flat racing and has been UK champion Flat jockey three times.

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4 Responses

  1. Should have had another list for female riders as Julie Krone the Queen of them all,Unless many moons ago,before my time ,there was another aggressive,winning female rider,,which I doubt. Would be interesting to list others… Chantal,Emma,….?

  2. You’re right. I’ll make that suggestion to our European partners who dictate what the content for their features will be.

    Julie #1 of course, but with me, Rosie Napravnik is 1A. I don’t watch West Coast racing regularly to have had an opinion on Chantel until she started riding regularly in South Florida; excellent hands, timing and positioning; I’m impressed.

    Don’t see enough of Emma Jane but when I do, it’s almost as if she’s always winning, as she rides for top outfits. But good topic. Saw Hollie Doyle win at Royal Ascot, she’s terrific…

  3. Just saw a list on Casino.Org then the one on Horse Hooves and the former had Brits,Aussies and Irish ladies while the latter had Krone,Painter,Rosie Napravnick( who retired too soon once she became a mom),Chantal, Blackmore,Crump,Rosey Homeister and Hayley Painter who is considered to be the most successful British Flat racing female jockey of the past 40 or so yrs. Flat racing versus route-steeplechase riders ? With steeplechasing if your horse cannot make those long,boring 3 plus miles treks,how can you blame the rider ( most of the time) ? Flat racing,from 5 F to 1 and 5/8 miles is enough to find out who-s good or bad…on that certain race. Enjoyed betting on Julie ride several non- favorite fillies/mares on turf at Belmont. No,Diane Nelson did not make those lists… Ps= How about Pat Day,Cauthen,Cordero or Jorge Velazquez,or even J V, gettng a mention?🤔

  4. That’s the way the Euros rated them, in terms of males on an international stage. Of course, your argument has merit and I would hate to have to rank them. Different eras and besides, the list probably should be a Top 10 to allow room for some of those you mentioned…

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