The greatest horse racing jockeys

PAT TAAFFE

One of the finest jump jockeys to be produced in Ireland, Pat Taaffe came from a well-known racing family, his brother 'Tos' being almost as successful over fences in Ireland. Pat won two Aintree Grand Nationals (Quare Times in 1955 and Gay Trip in 1970).

Pat Taaffe will always be associated with the Duchess of Westminster’s celebrated Arkle, who dominated theCheltenham Gold Cup scene with a triple victory in the years 1964-66.

And in particular for their epic battles with the Irish-bred Mill House starting in 1964 at Cheltenham when Mill House started odds—on favourite after his victory the previous year.

In a field of only four runners, Pat Taaffe waited until the second last fence before letting Arkle, then only a seven year old, sweep by to win by five lengths.

Pat Taaffe goes over a fence on Arkle
Pat Taaffe goes over a fence on Arkle

The rivalry was renewed the following year but this time Arkle thrashed the giant Mill House by 20 lengths. The following year the winning margin was 30 lengths when the Duchess of Westminster’s champion beat Dorrnant in another four-horse 'procession’.

As a jockey Pat Taaffe also won many other important chases at home and in England, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and the S.G.B. Chase at Ascot, both on Arkle, numerous Irish Grand Nationals as well as practically every other major race in K the Irish jumping calendar.

FRED WINTER

A superb horseman and a brilliant tactician, Fred Winter is believed by many to have been the finest National Hunt jockey of all time.

Over a long but remarkably trouble-free career Fred Winter won just about every major prize in National Hunt racing, including two Grand Nationals (Sundew in 1957 and Kilmore in 1962) as well as two Cheltenham Gold Cups and three Champion Hurdles. But one of

his greatest feats of horsernanship was his riding of Mandarin to win the Grand Steeple de Paris at Auteuil after the bit broke in his horse's mouth, leaving Fred Winter without brakes or steering.

BRYAN MARSHALL

Bryan Marshall was one of the great jump jockeys in an era of greats like Martin and Tim Molony, but his greatest claim to fame will always be his dual victories in the 1953 and 1954 Grand Nationals on Early Mist and Royal Tan. A very strong and determined race-rider as well as a brilliant horseman, Bryan was one of only a handful of jockeys ever to win the National in successive years.

STAN MELLOR

Noted for the fierce determination and enormous courage which took him to over 1000 National Hunt winners in a great career, Stan Mellor started out as a talented amateur jockey before finally tuming professional.

But perhaps his most memorable win was with the brilliant grey Stalbridge Colonist when they beat the great Arkle in the 1966 Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury. Coming to the second last, Arkle made one of his spectacular leaps but so did Stalbridge Colonist.

With Arkle a length in front at the last, Stan Mellor gathered up the grey horse (‘the bravest horse I have ever known' he recalls) and riding like a demon, he pushed Stalbridge Colonist ahead at the line to win by half a length.

FRED ARCHER

Born 1857. While illiterate, he was a brilliant horseman and became the greatest jockey of the 19th Century. During his successful career he won 2,748 races, winning the St. Leger six times, the Derby five times, the 2,000 Guineas four times and the 1,000 Guineas twice. Throughout his career he was continually troubled by weight problems and took his own life while in a depressed state in 1886 at the age of 29.

STEVE DONOGHUE

Born 1884.He became a household name during the 1920s and won fourteen classics before his retirement in 1937. Among the horses he partnered was the legendary Brown jack and possibly the fastest horse seen in England the Tetrarch.

SIR GORDON RICHARDS

Bom 1904. He became British Champion for the first time in 1925 and went on to win the title no fewer than 26 times before his career was cut short following a bad fall in 1954. During his career he rode 4,870 winners, 269 of these in one season, which remains a record to this day. His classic successes include the 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas three times, the Oaks twice, the St. Leger five times and nearing the end of his career in 1953 he finally won the Derby on Pinza.

When he retired from the saddle, he became a trainer for a while and then racing manager to Lady Beaverbrook.

CHARLIE SMIRKE

Born 1906. An outstanding rider in the English classics, Smirke won the 2,000) Guineas on My Babu (1948) and Palestine (1950) ; the 1,000 Guineas (1957) on Rose Royale II ; the Derby on Windsor Lad (1934), Mahmoud (1936) in the record time of 2 minutes 33 4/5 seconds, a record that still stands Tulyar (1952) and Hard Ridden (1958) ; and the St. Leger on Windsor Lad (1934), Bahram (1935), Tulyar (1952) and Never Say Die (1954).

WILLIE CARSON

Bom 1942. He became champion jockey in 1972 and retained his title the following year. A natural lightweight and this coupled with his retainer with the powerful Bemard van Cutsem stable helped him in his quest for the championship. He went on to be retained by Major Dick Hem and won the Oaks in 1977 for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on Dunfermline.

ARTHUR ‘SCOBIE’ BREASLEY

Bom 1914. He came to ride in Europe late in his career, having already ridden over 1,000 winners in Australia. He won the Sydney Cup twice and Caulfield Cup four times. Invited to Britain in 1950 he rode for Noel Cannon’s stable and quickly established himself as a superb judge of pace with a preference for waiting tactics.

His first classic success was on Ki Ming in the 1951 2,000 Guineas. He rode Festoon to victory in the 1954 1,000 Guineas and had two Derby wins, in 1964 on Santa Claus and two years later on Charlottown. A champion jockey on four occasions, he enjoyed his best season in 1962 with 179 winners.He retired from the saddle in 1968,having ridden 2,161 winners in Britain.


SANDY HAWLEY

Born 1949, in Canada. He quickly made his mark on United States racing scene and leading rider in 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1976.In 1973 he broke Willie Shoemaker's 20-year-old record of 485 winners in one season by scoring 515 times, although that total was bettered the following year by Chris McCarron. As well as top rider for winners the previous season, Hawley also set a record for prize money won in one year. A victory on Moonlight jig at Aqueduct gave a total of 4,254,112 dollars, passing the previous best of 4,251,060 dollars established by Laffit Pincay in 1974.

Hawley also won the Washington International at Laurel for the years on French horses, Nobiliary (1975) and Youth (1976) both of were owned by Nelson Bunker and trained by Maurice Zilber.

EDGAR BRITT

Born 1913, one of the first of the many Australian jockeys to ride in Britain in the late 1940s, he rode mainly in the North of England for Captain Charles Elsey. He completed a double in 1949, winning the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks on Musidora. His other classic wins, before retiring in 1959, were the 1,000 Guineas in 1956, 2,000 Guineas in 1953 and the St. Leger twice - on Sayajirao in 1947 and Black Tarquin in 1948. He retired and ran a stud farm in Australia.

PAT EDDERY

Bom March 18th, 1952. Son of former Irish jockey, Jimmy Eddery. This talented young rider was champion jockey in Britain three times, forming a successful partnership with one of the country's leading trainers, Peter Walwyn. Served his apprenticeship with trainer 'Frenchie' Nicholson and rode his first winner, Alvaro, at Epsom, April, 1969.

In 1974 became champion jockey for the first time and gained his first classic victory, on Polygamy in the Oaks. 1975 proved a vintage season for him. He retained his championship with a personal best score of 164 winners, and landed the Derby, Irish 2,000 Guineas and Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on Dr. Carlo Vittadinfs Grundy. Quickly established as a top international jockey he had all the attributes for a great rider. He had perfect balance and good understanding of a horse, a fluency of finish, and in style and natural ability was on more than one occasion been compared with the legendary Steve Donoghue.

LESTER PIGGOTT

Born November, 5th, 1935, son of trainer Keith Piggott. One of the finest jockeys Britain has ever produced. By the lat 70s he had been champion jockey nine times — including an unbroken run from 1964 until he was dethroned by Willie Carson in 1972. Started as an apprentice to his father and rode his first winner at the age of 13.

First classic win came five years later when he rode Never Say Die to victory in the 1953 Derby and has 23 classic victories so far to his credit. Won the Derby eight times - a record for the race - the St. Leger seven times, the Oaks four times, the 2,000 Guineas three times and the 1,000 Guineas once.

Among the great horses he has ridden are Nijinsky, who landed the Triple Crown 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger in 1970; the Noel Murless-trained Crepello, winner of the 1957 2,000 Guineas and Derby, Sir Ivor, winner of the 1968 2,000 Guineas and Derby, who went on to gain success the same season in the Washington International. He also won the same race the following year on Karabas, but had to wait until 1973 before winning his first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Rheingold. He became a freelance jockey after 1967 and was very much part of the

international scene, frequently riding in France and Ireland, mainly for the big Vincent O'Brien stable. His minimum riding weight was 8 st 6 lb.

Many racing experts consider him the greatest jockey ever. He has the perfect temperament for the big occasion, is a master tactician, good judge of pace, has excellent timing and a strong finish.

WILLIE SHOEMAKER

Born August, 19th, 1931.A legend in racing history, he became the most prolific winning jockey of all time in 1970 when landing his 6,032nd success, beating the previous best set by johnny Lorlgden. Only 4 ft. 11 in. tall and weighing 100 lb., ‘The Shoe', as he was affectionately known, must be the smallest of all the big-time riders.

Brought up in Texas he started his riding career at the age of 14 by joining trainer George Reeves. He attributed part of his success to the fact that he was given an old-fashioned apprenticeship, leaming all the duties of a stable lad as well as the art of jockeyship. His first victory was on Shafter V at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Fields racetrack on April 20th, 1949. His services were soon in demand and in 1953 rode a then record 485 winners. On three occasions he was national champion, but favoured the Californian tracks and rode a lot for trainer Charlie Whittingham.

Only once rode in Europe when he finished fifth on Tom Rolfe in the 1967 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. In later life he bace a multirnillionaire he confined his riding to California and in March, 1976 at the Santa Anita track gained his 7,000th success.

YVES SAINT-MARTIN

Bom at Agen, in September 1941. The pin-up jockey of French racing had a spectacular rise to fame and was idolised by the French racing public. He started as apprentice to Chantilly trainer Francois Mathet in 1955. Rode first winner at Le Tremblay, july 26th, 1958. Leading jockey in France at the age of 18 and was French champion 13 times including an uninterrupted run from 1962 to 1969.

Soon established himself as an intemational star, winning the 1962 Washington International on Match III and landing his first British classic, the 1962 Oaks on Monade. The following year claimed the Derby on Relko.

Had a lucrative retainer now with intemational art dealer and racehorse owner Daniel Wildenstein and trainer Angel Penna.A highlight of his career came in 1974 when he rode the great filly Allez France to victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. His talents as a jockey can be derived from natural physique and temperament, but above all his greatest quality was consistency.

FREDDIE HEAD

Bom June, 19th, 1947. One of the outstanding French jockeys, he started as an apprentice to his father, trainer Alec Head, and rode s his first winner at Fontainebleau, on April 13th, 1964.

Gained a notable success in the 1966 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Bon Mot III. Also won this big event on Countess Battya.ny's San San in 1972 and jacques Wertheimer’s vanjica in 1976.

In 1969 he completed the Prix jockey-Club and Grand Prix de Paris double on Goodly and Chaparral. Very much a rider for the big occasion, he also won the Prix du Jockey Club in 1973 on Roi Lear, 1975 on Val de l'Orne, and 1976 on Nelson Bunker Hunt’s horse, Youth. He had a big following in France where he had been champion jockey twice, but this forceful and determined rider was never as effective when riding abroad.

Video: Lester Piggott beats Willie Carson

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Comments 5 comments

FreddyCaple profile image

FreddyCaple 4 years ago from Louisville, Ky

Great read. Thanks!!!


jericho911 profile image

jericho911 3 years ago from Ohio

Nice article. I've actually only heard of Hawley and Shoemaker. I suppose I started following the sport much later. I grew up in the Bailey-Day-Pincay-McCarron-Stevens era. However, as good as those guys were, I'm all about today's superstar jockeys. I'm a big fan of Bejarano, Rosario and Napravnik. Again...great article !


jackie dowling 2 years ago

please if someone could help me i'm trying to find any information on my father jonny dowling served in the curra born 22/8/10932 . my email is jacquelinedowling@hotmail.com would love to get a recording of him racing also some photo's of friends he new and riden with , father deceased would be wonderful for grandchildren . many thanks


Burnsy 22 months ago

Re: John Dowling...

Was there also a Denise, Sarah & Kerry in the family?


LizM 18 months ago

I am trying to find any information I can about my late Father in Law.His name was BRENDAN MERRIMAN, and he rode with PAT TAAFE in the early 50's, as far as I know. Any information would be of great help, I am trying to get a picture of him& Pat on the one horse, but I can't find it anywhere

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