Famous Jockeys in UK horse racing

From AP McCoy to Lester Pigott, horse racing has provided some of the greatest sportsman of their time.

A lot may be down to the calibre of horse beneath them, but the performance, knowledge and skill of a jockey can be the difference between winning and losing any horse race and that often separates the good jockeys from the world-class ones.

Despite their being a number of high-profile jockeys to have graced the sport, the highest accolade of them all is the Sports Personality of the Year Award and there’s only been one winner of the top prize – AP McCoy.

However, throughout this guide we will look through in detail at the top jockeys to have played an instrumental role in UK horse racing as we know it today.

Top Jockeys in the UK

Flat Jockeys

Lester Pigott

Lester Pigott will go down as one of the greatest flat racing jockeys of all time with a staggering 4,493 career wins to his name.

He picked up 30 British Classic Race wins as a jockey, including five 2000 Guineas, nine Derby and eight St Leger wins in an illustrious career whilst also winning the flat racing Champion Jockey title on 11 occasions.

His first Derby winner came at the tender age of 18 on Never Say Die in 1954 and one of his more famous Derby wins was aboard the great Nijinsky.

Frankie Dettori

The enigmatic Italian is one of the most popular jockeys around and etched his name into the history books by riding all seven winners on British Champions Day in 1996 at Ascot, where the term ‘Magnificent Seven’ was coined.

He has ridden more than 500 Group winners and even the great Lester Pigott described him as the best jockey currently riding.

The now 48-year-old has 17 Classic wins to his name and back in 1990 became the first teenager since Pigott to ride 100 winners in a season and has been Champion Jockey on three occasions.

Ryan Moore

The three-time Champion Jockey Moore is one of the current top jockeys in the UK with 11 Classic wins.

Moore picked up his first winner as a 16-year-old for his grandfather Charlie and his first major win came in 2002 in the Cesarewitch on Miss Fara.

In 2004 he picked up 100 winners and £1million in prizemoney for the first time in his career at the end of the 2017 season he reached the 2,000-race milestone – the third most of all active jockeys behind Dettori and Joe Fanning, both who have been riding for a decade longer.

Hayley Turner

Turner is the most successful female jockey of the generation and goes down in history as the first female to have picked up 100 winners.

Her first major wins in her career came in 2011 when winning the July Cup at Newmarket on Dream Ahead before following that up with success in the Nunthorpe Stakes with Margot Did.

The 36-year-old was also given an OBE in the birthday honours list for her services to racing.

Read more about Turner and other female jockeys in UK horse racing here.

National Hunt Jockeys

AP McCoy

Tony McCoy will go down as many as the greatest jockey of our lifetime, and the winner of the Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2010.

He rode a record 4,358 winners during his 23-year career, but it amazingly took the Irishman 15 attempts before he won the Grand National aboard Don’t Push It to ensure he won every major national hunt race going at least once.

In total, he rode 31 Cheltenham Festival winners, the five editions of the Grand National – Welsh, Scottish, Midlands, Irish and Grand National – and was the 16-time Jump Jockey of the Year.

John Francome

John Francome picked up 1,138 winners over the course of his career and picked up the British Champion Jump Jockey award on seven occasions between 1976 and 1985.

That makes the now 66-year-old the third most successful National Hunt jump jockey of all time behind Tony McCoy

One honour that did escape Francome though was that he never won the Grand National and he has been dubbed the best jockey ever to have not won the race

After hanging up his saddle, he was awarded an MBE in 1986 for services to racing.

Peter Scudamore

Affectionately known as ‘Scu’, Scudamore was the eight-time Champion Jockey having picked up 1,678 winners.

He blazed a trail in the sport and held records for the greatest number of winners in a season – 221 in 1988-89 – and that was set before the development of the  all-year round calendar.

Despite his brilliance, he went through his career without winning the Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup or King George.

He has had some success in the National though, with connections to Little Polveir and Miinnehoma – winners of the Aintree race in 1989 and 1994 respectively.

Bryony Frost

Frost was born into the sport, with her father Jimmy, having won the Grand National on Little Polveir in 1983.

She recently picked up her 75th National Hunt winner in her career in November 2018 when aboard Marienstar and  rode Frodon to victory at the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day at the weekend.

The 24-year-old also rose to prominence by becoming only the second female jockey to ride a Group One winner on Boxing Day in 2017, as well as recording a fifth-placed finish on Milansbar at the 2018 Grand National in April.

Read more about Frost and other female jockeys in UK horse racing here.

Famous Jockeys in the Cheltenham Festival

Without doubt Ruby Walsh  will be one of the most famous jockeys of his time and his record 56 winners at the Cheltenham Festival will take a long time to be surpassed.

Alexander Banquet gave him his first winner at the Festival in 1998 and since 2004 he has been the meeting’s top jockey a staggering 11 times.

Richard Johnson would have had so many more titles and trophies had it not been for AP McCoy, having finished behind him 16 times in the race for the Champion Jockey title.

‘Dickie’ has 22 Festival winners to his name heading into this year’s meeting and has one every showpiece race at Cheltenham over the years.

Since 2006, Davy Russell has had a winner at the Festival every year and in 2014 it was a year to remember when winning the Triumph Hurdle on future Grand National winner Tiger Roll, Savello in the Grand Annual and Lord Windermere in the main race – the Gold Cup.

Richard Dunwoody was the meeting’s top rider in 1990 and 1996 with two winners in each year, having landed his first aboard his Grand National winner West Tip, and by the time he hung up his saddle he had picked up 18 Festival winners.

Famous Jockeys at the Grand National

Bob Champion will be one of the memorable Grand National winners, when aboard Alderniti in 1981.  For the two previous years, Champion had been struggling with testicular cancer and his achievement did not go unnoticed – winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Brian Fletcher is one of the most famous winners of the race, as twice he took the top prize on the great Red Rum having previously won it on Red Alligator in 1968.

Fletcher retired from racing in 1977, and that was the year Red Rum went on to win the race for a record third time – with Tommy Stack taking over the reins.

Unfortunately, Fletcher passed away aged just 69 on 12th January 2017, but he will always be remember for his National successes.

Leighton Aspell (below) may be a veteran of the sport these days, but it hasn’t stopped him racking up the winners and he will go down in Grand National history.

In 2014 he won the race on Pineau de Re, and just 12 months later he became the first jockey since Fletcher to make it back-to-back National winners, and only the third since World War II.

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