Debtor, based in Britain, had a memorable year in Europe, winning a string of group 1 races including the Coral-Eclipse and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the mighty mare Enable. It was hard to ignore Debtor’s performances as he also landed the Longings World ’s Best Jockey title for the third time in its six-year history.
That award is measured on results from what are deemed the top 100 group 1 races in the world, although we like to look more broadly and also reward outstanding performances in domestic jockeys’ premierships. The likes of Hong Kong superstar ZAC Burton, Kiwi champ James McDonald and French wizard Maxime Guy on only enhanced their reputations in 2019.
The newcomers in our list of the best 10 jockeys in the world are Iraq Ortiz, Jr from the United States and Christophe Lemaitre, the French master who has thrived once again in the cauldron of Japan racing. The likes of Kerri McEvoy, Christophe Bouillon and Joel Rosario make way although they are still heavily in the discussion.
There is little chance of finding consensus among racing fans, and this top 10 list is certain to create more arguments than it solves. 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.
No matter where he is racing, Moore demands respect from rivals and rarely puts a foot wrong. 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 riders.
Moore has been champion jockey in Britain multiple times and collected most of the big races including a couple of Derbies. 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. He has already landed titles in the hugely competitive Sydney jockeys’ premiership in 2013-14, 2015-16 and 2018-19, and was the No.1 rider for Go dolphin in Australia until his career hit a serious hurdle.
Burton has been consistently among the top riders in the red-hot HK arena for more than a decade after rising through the ranks in Brisbane and then Sydney in the powerful Australian racing scene. After his much publicized split with Go dolphin in 2012 as well as a suspension for alleged cocaine use, it would have been easy for Debtor to settle back to a quieter life.
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. No less a figure than legendary French trainer Andre Fare once said of this young rider that he had the ability to be one of the greatest jockeys of all.
Guy on 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 collected another Japanese jockeys’ title last season, and we are always happy to have him steering anything we bet on in Japan or even Hong Kong.
Lemaitre is the leading jockey in Japan and has made a habit out of winning some of the biggest races in one of the sports the toughest environments. You just know that Go dolphin only allow the best horsemen to don the famous blue colors and Doyle has been retained by the giant training operation since 2014.
Doyle was also the choice jockey of the Queen at the 2019 Royal Ascot meeting, where he rode Magnetic Charm to a second placing in the Sandringham Stakes. The Venezuela-born Castellano has been a phenomenon in recent years in the US, topping the list for prize money earners in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and winning four consecutive Eclipse Awards as outstanding jockey.
Like so many of the very best riders, Castellano was born into the saddle with his late father, uncle and brother all jockeys. Ortiz Jr plies his trade mainly in New York, and collected his first American Classic in the 2016 Belmont Stakes, aboard Creator.
He comes from humble beginnings in Brazil but took Singapore by storm and has become the punters’ pin-up boy in Hong Kong, where weight of support from Chinese gamblers makes almost anything he is on among the favorites. Honorable mentions to the following jockeys (and there are sure to be others who deserve a mention, but we have overlooked): Jose Ortiz, Blake Shine, Damian Lane, Anton Marcus, Damien Oliver, Craig Williams, Jim Doyle, wonder kid ISIN Murphy, Andrea Attend, Japanese legend Lusaka Take, Brazilian whiz Sylvester de Sousa, Mike Smith, Mickael Barcelona, Flatten Prat, Pierre Charles Bought … the list goes on.
Nationality: Puerto Rican Home base: New York Johnny V fits into the veteran category of jockey but sits comfortably in the list of the all-time greats. 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.
Nationality: Australian Home base: Sydney (Australia) Bowman is a master judge of pace and a true horseman. It has not always been smooth sailing, but in recent years he has been pushed to greater heights in Sydney with the arrival of the likes of James McDonald.
Nationality: Norwegian/British 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. Nationality: Australian Home base: Sydney It has become impossible to ignore Kerri McEvoy’s record of consistently finding successes in the biggest races in Australia.
The kid from Streaky Bay in South Australia burst on to the scene as a youngster when he won the 2000 Melbourne Cup in Brew, aged just 20. Since then, he has added two more victories in Australia’s greatest horse race, winning on Aladdin in 2016 and Cross Counter in 2018.
And probably also to that intangible quality all the riders on this list possess: the ability to effortlessly coax horses to adopt a high cruising speed before they are even asked for the ultimate effort. Nationality: Belgian Home base: France Born in Brussels in 1981, Bouillon is a regular at the biggest race meetings in the world and rarely leaves empty-handed.
One metric for ranking famous horse jockeys is the prize money they rake in. There’s also career longevity to consider, international success in big events and striking up memorable partnerships with famous racehorses too.
With honorable mentions for Eddie Arcade, Javier Castellano, Pat Day and Chris Macaroon, this is our list of the top 10 jockeys of all-time. A 12-time Irish champion jumps jockey, Ruby Walsh retired from the saddle in 2019 as the rider with the most wins in Cheltenham Festival history.
Russell Base may not be as high-profile as others on our list of famous jockeys, but there isn’t a professional horse rider who can claim to have won more races. It’s an incredible achievement and, while there aren’t any major wins in US Triple Crown or Breeders’ Cup races on his CV, he is well worth his place on this list.
AP McCoy is widely considered the most prolific and best National Hunt jockey of modern times. As a record 20-time British champion jumps jockey in consecutive years, McCoy’s desire and will to win was unparalleled.
Best known for his association with trainer Martin Pipe, he became retained rider to leading Irish owner JP McManus. No jumps jockey in British horse racing history has ridden more winners than this man.
McCoy’s most famous equine partnerships include Brave Inca, Binocular and 2010 Grand National winner Don’t Push It. A seven-time champion jockey stateside in terms of prize money, he dominated the sport in the early 1970s and rode the most winners in 1971.
A sure-fire Hall of Fame, he started riding in his native Panama before making it big in America. An incredible mark of 9.530 career wins saw Pin cay Jr. retire then as the most successful jockey every in terms of winners.
There isn’t bigger global star in horse racing than Gianfranco “Frankie” Debtor. Frankie is best known for his flying dismounts and 20-year association with powerful worldwide thoroughbred racehorse operation Go dolphin.
His partnerships with Stradivarius, Enable, Golden Horn, Authorized, Chaparral, Sing spiel and a whole host of other Flat luminaries in Europe and beyond ensure Debtor’s place among famous jockeys. Smith is synonymous with success at the Breeders’ Cup too, winning 26 races at the premier Flat thoroughbred meeting in America.
Arrogate, who has won some of the richest races staged in the world, is another of Smith’s high-profile equine partners in a career that began in 1982. He has also set a new record for most American Grade 1 successes in the saddle, surpassing honorable mention Jerry Bailey, at the end of 2019.
While he wasn’t as prolific in the British Classics as some other UK based jockeys on our list, Richards set a record that may never be broken. Richards became a fine racehorse trainer after retiring from riding and son Nicky still has stables at Perth on the edge of Lake District.
Sun Chariot, a rare winner of the UK Fillies’ Triple Crown, and Tudor Minstrel are perhaps Richards’ most famous equine partnerships from the 1940s. No jockey on planet earth can claim to have bagged more prize money than John Velazquez.
Kitten’s Joy and Scat Father, who have both become huge influences on thoroughbred breeding as sires of great racehorses since going to stud, are among his most famous equine partners. With 30 British Classics under his belt, including the UK Triple Crown of 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger with Nijinsky in 1970, he partnered many of the best Flat thoroughbreds in Europe over four decades.
Although he is only third on the all-time list of winning most American Flat jockeys, Shoemaker had a career strike rate over 21 percent. Shoemaker went on to earn more than treble what he made riding as a racehorse trainer once he retired after 41 years of being a jockey.