The 10 best jockeys in the world
The task of listing the 10 best active jockeys in the thoroughbred world is fraught with difficulty.
How does one compare riders from different jurisdictions? What criteria should be used? Have I forgotten someone obvious to many punters out there? Am I letting the hip-pocket nerve cloud my judgement?
There is little chance of finding consensus among racing fans, and this top 10 list is certain to create more arguments than it solves.
But this is the brief from the powers that be at the World Gambling List, so here are my best 10 hoops as at April 1, 2016 (Yes, I know, April Fool’s Day …)
How did we settle on our final list?
At least half those named pick themselves by virtue of their outstanding results over the past few years. They all boast great strike rates, finish high up in their respective riders’ championships and also can step up as needed to compete on the international stage.
But these riders are also set apart by the simple fact they nearly always extract the best out of their mounts. And they seldom make mistakes despite the pressure heaped upon them to make split-second decisions in the heat of battle while steering a 500-odd-kilogram thoroughbred while perched precariously on its back.
These are the riders whose mounts can be bet on with confidence that jockey error won’t cost you dearly.
1. James McDonald
Nationality: New Zealander.
Home base: Sydney
This New Zealander who plies his trade mostly in Australia is a phenomenon. Still in his early 20s, he dominated the ranks of apprentices and then senior jockeys in his homeland, winning junior titles and two senior titles before the age of 20. McDonald was the first jockey in NZ to ride more than 200 winners in a season. He has already landed a title in the hugely competitive Sydney jockeys’ premiership (2013-14) and is the No.1 rider for Godolphin’s head Australian trainer, John O’Shea. Given that powerful connection and his incredible record, it seems only a matter of time before McDonald is mixing it with the best worldwide on a more regular basis.
2. Joao Moreira
Home base: Hong Kong
“The Magic Man’’ is a Brazilian who has found incredible success in Asia, first in Singapore and then since heading to the racing mecca of Hong Kong. On Friday, September 26, 2013, he rode eight winners from eight rides on the nine-race card at Kranji racecourse in Singapore. He comes from humble beginnings in Brazil but took Singapore by storm and has had a great start to his time in Hong Kong, where weight of support from Chinese punters makes almost anything he is on among the favourites.
3. Ryan Moore
Home base: Britain
Like many of these saddle superstars, Moore was born into a racing family, with his father a trainer and siblings Jamie, Joshua and Hayley all race. Moore has been champion jockeys in Britain multiple times and collected most of the big races including a couple of Derbies. But it has been his success around the world in recent years that puts him into the top echelon. In 2014 he even bounced back from disappointment in previous visits to win arguably Australia’s biggest two races: the Cox Plate (Adelaide) and the Melbourne Cup (Protectionist). But Moore has also won group 1 races in Ireland, Italy, Germany, the UK, France, the UAE, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada and the US.
4. Christophe Soumillon
Home base: France
Born in Brussels in 1981, Soumillon is a regular at the biggest race meetings in the world and rarely leaves empty-handed. He has dominated French racing and also landed some of the biggest prizes elsewhere. He once rode five winners on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe day, including three group 1 races. Many rate him as the best of all, and he is a near certainty on any list of best jockeys. Another to have teamed with legendary trainer Andre Fabre and risen to the top. He was born into the sport as the son of jumps rider Jean-Marc Soumillon.
5. William Buick
Home base: Britain
Buick is at the peak of his powers and has been destined for the top of the jockey ranks since a young age. His Scottish father Walter was champion jockey in Scandinavia eight times, while mother Maria was an outstanding equestrian rider in show jumping and dressage. Buick holds dual Danish-British citizenship and was sent to Britain early on and rode his first winner as a teen in 2006 at Salisbury. He was apprentice in the powerful Ian Balding stable before linking up with John Gosden and is now retained in Britain, along with James Doyle, by the world’s most powerful stable Godolphin. A star of the sport.
6. Javier Castellano
Home base: New York
The Venezuela-born Castellano has been a phenomenon In recent years in the us, topping the list for prizemoney earners in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Like so many of the very best riders, castellano was born into the saddle with his late father, uncle and brother all jockeys. Castellano left Venezuela for Florida in 1997 and his career has been on an upward trajectory since. He’s the icecool rider so at home when the top-grade races roll around.
7. Hugh Bowman
Home base: Sydney (Australia)
Bowman is a master judge of pace and a true horseman. He has the uncanny knack of getting his horses to settle beautifully over longer distances; indeed, many of his greatest triumphs have come in races such as the Victoria Derby and ATC Australian Derby, where his skill in getting young, inexperienced horses to race truly comes to the fore. It has not always been smooth sailing, but in recent years he has been pushed to greater heights in Sydney with the arrival of McDonald. Bowman has landed Sydney jockeys’ premierships in 2008-09, 2011-12 and 2014-2015 and sits comfortable among the top few jockeys in the highly competitive Australian ranks.
8. Frankie Dettori
Home base: Britain
Unquestionably the best-known jockey on the planet but we have to admit we wrestled with including him on our list this time around. He is a mad Arsenal fan, after all. However, his statistics in recent years demand his inclusion. After his much publicised split with Godolphin in 2012 as well as a suspension for alleged cocaine use, it would have been easy for Dettori to settle back to a quieter life. Yet he has not and is still riding at close to the peak of his powers. There may be no repeats of his effort to ride all seven winners on the card at British Champions’ Day at Ascot in 1996, but he is still a force to be reckoned with. He even managed to top the rankings in a “world’s best jockey’’ competition in 2015, based on the results of 100 premium races worldwide. An all-time great with a kick (and a star jump) left.
9. Maxime Guyon
Home base: France
No less a figure than legendary French trainer Andre Fabre once said of this young rider that he had the ability to be one of the greatest jockeys of all. And Fabre should know. He was a legendary rider himself before becoming even more renowned preparing horses to run fast. Guyon plies his trade in Europe but made a massive impact during a short stint in Hong Kong, the most competitive of arenas for jockeys. He has wonderfully soft hands and horses seem to settle beautifully for him, and he also never seems overawed whatever the stage. One can expect him to stay among the top of the riding ranks for many years.
10. John Velazquez
Nationality: Puerto Rican
Home base: New York
Johnny V fits into the veteran category of jockey but sits comfortably in this list as one of the all time greats. It’s hard to argue against the inclusion of someone who has ridden around 5500 winners with career prizemoney of north of $US300 million. Velazquez was inducted into the US Horse Racing hall of fame in 2012 but has a few years left yet among the top echelon of riders.
Which jockeys just missed our top 10
Honourable mentions to the following jockeys: Joel Rosario, Blake Shinn, Anton Marcus, Zac Purton, Douglas Whyte, James Doyle, Silvestre De Sousa, Damien Oliver, James Doyle, Andrea Atzeni.