Top 10 Jockeys of All Time

Note: It is incredibly difficult to choose the Top Ten of All Time in any category and jockeys are no exception. Top ten ratings for jockeys can depend on all kinds of factors; earnings, wins, rides, champion titles...the list goes on. You might not find all of our top ten choices on other records dealing with famous jockeys, but let us assure you: the athletes we praise here are all true legends of the sport.

#1: Laffit A. Pincay, Jr.

Born29/12/1946
Career Wins9, 530
Main CircuitUnited States United States

Born in Panama City, Panama Laffit Pincay started his career as a horseman on the Panamanian circuit. Noticing the young riders promising talent, Jockey Club member and horse breeder Fred W. Hooper decided to bring twenty-year-old Pincay to the United States to ride as a sponsored jockey for his stable.

The young jockey took to this new and highly professional environment immediately, starting his almost 40 year career by winning eight of his first eleven races. During his career Pincay won almost every major race on the US calendar, including nine wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup, three consecutive wins in the Belmont Stakes and one precious win in the Kentucky Derby. Pincay retired from professional racing in 2003 but he is far from gone from the racing scene. A life-size bust of the legendary jockey is exhibited at Santa Anita Park, he was inducted into the National Museum Of Racing Hall Of Fame in 1975, and the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award is awarded annually on Hollywood Gold Cup Day to a member of the racing community who has displayed outstanding 'integrity, dedication, determination and distinction'.

#2: Lanfranco 'Frankie' Dettori

Born15/12/1970
Career WinsApprox. 2,450
Main CircuitUnited Kingdom United Kingdom / Europe Europe
Frankie Dettori
Frankie Dettori at Goodwood in August 2004.

While he may not yet have amassed as many victories as our number one jockey, Frankie Dettori is still an active jockey, far from retirement, and collecting new wins on a weekly basis. Dettori was born in Milan, Italy, into a family with a horse-heavy background. His father Gianfranco Dettori was a well-known jockey on the Italian circuit and introduced his son to the art of horse riding early on. At thirteen Dettori quit school to pursue a jockeying career and at fourteen relocated to the United Kingdom to begin his apprenticeship under trainer Luca Cumani at Newmarket racecourse.

Almost immediately, Dettori set to forging his reputation as almost too good a rider to be true. He became the first teenager since the outrageous Lester Piggott to ride 100 winning races in one season; won virtually every major race on the British racing calendar; and was signed as a regular jockey for racing giant Godolphin. However, the achievement that forever cements Frankie Dettori as one of the greatest jockeys of all time took place on 28th September 1996, when Dettori won seven out of seven races on a single day of the Royal Ascot Festival. His performance on this fateful day is unrivalled to this day and testament to the almost ludicrous talent of this outstanding athlete.

#3: Russell Baze

Born07/08/1958
Career WinsApprox. 10,927
Main CircuitUnited States United States

Russell Baze, who in 2006 overtook Laffit Pincay Jr. as jockey with most career wins, has built his fame on a solid base of seemingly impossible achievements. Still an active jockey today, Baze began his career as a sixteen-year-old riding at Yakima Racetrack in Walla Walla, Washington, winning his first race there in autumn 1974.

However, it was during only in the early nineties that the North American horse racing authorities began to value and reward Baze's outstanding talent. He was named United States Champion Jockey (by wins) ten times, including receiving the title from 1992 to 1995 consecutively, and was awarded the Eclipse Special Award in 1995. The honour was based on Baze's winning over 400 races per year for five years running. In 1999 Baze was inducted into the United States Racing Hall Of Fame, won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2002, and has a very special relationship with the Isaac Murphy Award. This award for outstanding jockeying achievements was introduced in 1995 and since it appeared on the scene Russell Baze has received it every single year, bar 2004 when the award went to Ramon Dominguez.

In 2010 Baze celebrated a personal break through when he won the San Francisco Breeders' Club Mile, the only race held at Golden Gate Fields Racecourse that had eluded him during his stellar career.

#4: Jerry D. Bailey

Born29/08/1957
Career Wins5,893
Main CircuitUnited States United States

Jerry Bailey, retired in 2006, was a true collector of big name wins. The Texan athlete started his career in 1974, riding his first winner at Sunland Park Racecourse in New Mexico, and made it his mission to ride to victory in prestigious races in his home country and on the international circuit. He rode four winners at the Dubai World Cup (1996, 1997, 2001, 2002) and scored a much coveted victory in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes in 2000. Bailey holds double victories in all America Classic Races (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes) and has won a total of fifteen Breeders' Cup Races.

However, Bailey also shot to fame for pioneering a completely different side of the jockeying profession. He was the first jockey ever to wear advertising patches on his silks when riding in the Kentucky Derby 2004. Only weeks earlier a district court in Louisville had passed the law allowing rider to advertise during the historical event and Bailey was the first top rider to jump on the bandwagon.

In 1995 Bailey was inducted into the United States Racing Hall Of Fame in 1995, received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey seven times (three and four times consecutively from 1995-1997 and 2000-2003); was highest earning jockey in the United States for six seasons, and won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award for top lifetime achievement in 1992. Since his retirement Bailey has remained involved in the racing scene, including serving as a commentator for ESPN.

#5: Lester Piggott

Born05/11/1935
Career Wins4,493
Main CircuitUnited Kingdom United Kingdom

Many examples can be cited to demonstrate Lester Piggott's dedication to the sport of horse racing, but one act seems to stand out: Lester Piggott did not retire from the track until he was almost sixty years old. Piggott was born into a long lineage of jockeys and horsemen, a legacy he seemed eager to embrace from a young age. He started racing horses at the age of ten, won his first event two years later and seemingly never looked back.

Piggott became known as the youngest jockey to ride over 100 winners in one season. When he was eighteen years old, he recorded his first victory in the Epsom Derby, which would become somewhat of a signature race for him. In the course of his fifty year career, Piggott won nine runs of the Epsom Derby, a feat unrivalled until today. But Piggott did not stop there, he won the Ascot Gold Cup eleven times, the July Cup ten times and the St. Leger Stakes eight times. Expanding his impressive Derby record he went on to win the Irish Derby five times, the German Derby three times, and won once in both the Singapore Derby and the Slovak Derby.

The only thing to taint Piggott's career was his constant struggle to maintain his shape. At five foot eight inches, he was unusually tall for a jockey and suffered great deprivations to meet weight standards.

Piggott rode his last winner in 1994, aged 59, and finally retired the following year. An annual price giving ceremony for jockeys, the Oscars of the riding world so to speak, are named The Lesters in his honour. Lester Piggott is widely considered the most outstanding jockey who had ever lived.

#6: Steve Cauthen

Born01/05/1960
Career Wins2,794
Main CircuitUnited Kingdom United Kingdom

Steve Cauthen was born into the United States hotbed of thoroughbred racing, the state of Kentucky, and started his career as a teenager on the North American Circuit. He began competing in professional races at sixteen, booking his first winner within a week of his debut race, and shot to fame almost instantly. In his second season on the track, at seventeen, he was the winning-most jockey of the year with 487 victories. Consequently he was named the Associated Press Athlete Of The Year and Sportsman Of The Year in 1977. In the same year he was the highest earning jockey of the season, won the Eclipse Award in both the outstanding apprentice jockey and the outstanding jockey category and the Eclipse Award Of Merit. The following season, at eighteen, Cauthen achieved the nigh impossible on equine legend Affirmed - he won the US Triple Crown series 1978. Since Cauthen rode the triple winner, no other horse has won this prestigious cup.

At nineteen, Cauthen emigrated to the United Kingdom; partly for the year-round high-profile races, partly because jockeys competed at higher weights in the UK and Cauthen had trouble meeting the stringent weight restrictions in the US. The talented athlete made his mark on the British racing scene with ease. He recorded wins in all Classic Races - including three wins in the St. Leger Stakes -, rode winners in most major events, like the Coronation Cup, the Eclipse Stakes and the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes; as well as blitzing competition in prestigious races in Germany, France and Italy.

Since his retirement Cauthen is an executive at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky.

#7: Cash Asmussen

Born14/03/1962
Career Wins3000+
Main CircuitFrance France

Although Cash Asmussen was born and grew up in South Dakota and Texas, he would truly leave his mark on the French racing scene. His introduction to the North American circuit came with his win in the Beldame Stakes on filly Waya. Until his departure to the European continent in 1982, Asmussen recorded two consecutive wins in the Vosburgh Stakes, and victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Mother Goose Stakes, and the Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (which he would win a second time in 1994).

From 1982 to 2000, Asmussen was predominantly based in Chantilly, France, the home of Chantilly Racecourse; for most of this time he was retained as a stable jockey for Stavros Niarchos, a wealthy shipping heir and stable owner. During his time in Europe Asmussen collected titles in all major French races - from the Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe to the Grand Prix De Paris - as well as working his magic on racecourses in the UK. The July Cup 1988 and the Coronation Cup 1990 count among his main achievements on the British racing circuit. He was named Champion Jockey five times during his French residence and sporadically returned to the United States to win the Breeders' Cup Mile amongst other big races.

Asmussen retired from professional racing in 2001 and returned to Texas.

#8: Patrick 'Pat' Eddery

Born10/03/1952
Career Wins4,632
Main CircuitUnited Kingdom United Kingdom

Pat Eddery hails from County Kildare in Ireland and showed an affinity for horse racing from a young age. He started his apprenticeship in 1967, at fifteen years of age, and began a slow and steady ascent, first on the Irish and later on the British racing circuit. Other than most of our Top Ten jockeys, Eddery was not a teenage sensation but only started to claim his fame in the 1980s, although he was named Irish Champion Apprentice in 1971.

Eddery was a steady winner and an outstanding horseman. His ability to control and relax his mounts, thus enabling them to race to the best of their ability - no matter what their position or competition - made him a sought after rider for trainers and owners from all over the world. During his career he was named Champion Jockey eleven times - sharing the all-time record with legend Lester Piggott - and collected wins in most major events on the UK racing calendar. Amongst his most successful races are the Coronation Cup, Sussex Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes with six wins, the Middle Park Stakes and the Racing Post Trophy at five wins each; as well as sharing the title of winning-most jockey of France's Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe, which saw him emerge victorious four times.

Since his retirement in 2003, Eddery is working as a trainer of thoroughbreds at his Musk Hill Stud stable. He was awarded an honorary OBE in 2005.

#9: William 'Bill' Shoemaker

Born19/08/1931
Died12/10/2003
Career Wins8,833
Main CircuitUnited States United States

William Lee Shoemaker had a dramatic start in life, as a diminutive baby weighing roughly one kilo who was not expected to make is through the night. A fighter by nature, he did live but remained tiny into adulthood. However, his four feet eleven inches frame turned out a blessing once young Shoemaker made his career choice.

Shoemaker started riding professionally at eighteen and won his first race within a month of his first appearance on the track. The following year, 1950, Shoemaker was named United States Champion Jockey by wins, a title he received five times in total during his career. From this moment onwards, it seemed to be young Williams sole ambition to collect wins in all US racing events worthy of his attention. He won all three of the US Classic races multiple times, without ever achieving a Triple Crown Victory, as well as the 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic. Shoemaker made the Santa Anita Handicap his own, recording eleven wins in the event; and won eight runs of the Del Mar Handicap, the Oak Tree Invitational Handicap, the Santa Anita Derby, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the San Luis Obispo Handicap. In 1958 he was inducted into the National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame.

After his retirement in 1990 Shoemaker went into horse training, a career which was soon interrupted by a tragic car accident which left the former star athlete paralysed from the neck down. In spite of his horrific injury, Shoemaker continued to train horses until 1997.

Today the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Stakes are held annually at Hollywood Park Racecourse, and a life-size bust of the track legend can be admired at Santa Anita Park.

#10: Tony McCoy

Born04/05/1974
Career Winsca.3000 and counting
Main CircuitUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Tony McCoy
Tony McCoy & Straw Bear, winning the
2006 Fighting Fifth Hurdle.

Anthony Peter McCoy, known mostly as Tony McCoy, is perhaps the greatest National Hunt jockey of our time. The young Irish jockey burst onto the scene in 1992, when he recorded his first win at Thurles Racecourse, and seems to have been improving steadily ever since. In 1994 he rode his first winner on British soil and quickly became one of the most prolific athletes on the scene.

Since the 1995/96 season, McCoy has been named British Jump Racing Champion Jockey every single year without fail. He was awarded an MBE in 2003 and an OBE in 2010.

McCoy holds the record for most winners ridden within a season by a National Hunt jockey, 253, and was the fastest jockey to collect 1000 winners. He is also the only jump jockey to win more than 2,500 races.

Throughout his career McCoy won every National Hunt race worth winning; the Champion Chase, the Champion Hurdle, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Tingle Creek Chase amongst them. One single race seemed to elude the legend of the track though, the Aintree Grand National. It wasn't until 2010 that McCoy finally cracked the Aintree Grand National code, riding his first winner at the event, Don't Push It. In spite of his remarkable career achievements, McCoy lists this win as one of the most spectacular moments of his professional life.

With many years left in the saddle, Tony McCoy is guaranteed to work up an amazing number of career wins by the time he chooses to retire - so keep an eye out during jump season, you might just see some history being made.

HorseRacing.co.uk logoOnline Gambling should always be enjoyed responsibly by those of legal age only. If you would like more responsible gambling information, please visit the Gamcare website.

© 2010 - 2017 HorseRacing.co.uk - All Rights Reserved.