A jockey’s life is not an easy one. Long days, risk of injury, a constant battle with the scales and a hugely competitive environment make for a brutal career choice.
But for those who make it to the top of the tree, fame, fortune and the chance to move in glamorous circles awaits.
Here we run down the five most successful jockeys in British racing.
1. Sir Gordon Richards
Often considered the greatest jockey of all time, Gordon Richards rode 4,870 winners between 1921 and 1954, winning the flat jockeys’ championship 26 times.
After winning his second championship in 1931, Richards struck up a partnership with trainer Fred Darling, which saw him break numerous long-standing records.
In October 1933, Richards had 12 consecutive winning rides, which included going through the six-race card at Chepstow and then riding the first five winners at the same course the following day. That record still stands today, almost 90 years later.
Richards remains the only flat jockey ever to be knighted.
2. Pat Eddery
From a racing family in County Kildare, Pat Eddery’s career spanned five decades and saw him ride 4,493 winners including three wins each in the Derby, Oaks and 2,000 Guineas.
Eddery claimed 11 champion jockey titles in Britain, becoming the youngest post-war English champion in 1974 – a record that still stands. He also claimed several notable international prizes, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (four times), Japan Cup, Arlington Million and a number of wins in the Breeders Cup.
Eddery rode at least 100 winners every year bar one between 1973 and 2001 and tallied 99 winners in 2022 – his penultimate year in the saddle.
3. Lester Piggott
Berkshire-born Lester Piggott is one of those sportsman who truly transcends his sport, becoming a household name thanks in part to his 30 British Classic wins, including nine Derby triumphs.
In a career stretching from 1948 to 1994, Piggott rode 4,493 winners, taking in 11 Flat jockeys’ titles between 1960 and 1982.
After retiring in 1985, Piggott returned to the saddle in 1990 at the age of 55, and within ten days had won the Breeders’ Cup Mile aboard Royal Academy.
Unusually tall for a jockey at 5ft 8in, Piggott began his career over hurdles and was known by his nickname The Long Fellow.
A famously ruthless competitor, both in the saddle and when negotiating for rides, Piggott pioneered a unique riding style which was later immitated by many of his contemporaries.
4. Sir Anthony McCoy
Far and away the leading jump jockey of all time, Anthony “AP” McCoy won his first jockeys’ title in 1996 and stayed champion jump jockey until his retirement in 2015.
McCoy became stable jockey to leading trainer Martin Pipe in 1997, and in 2001 he broke Gordon Richards’ 51-year-old record for the most winners in a single season.
In 2004, McCoy began a partnership with powerful owner JP McManus which led to several big-race wins including in 2010 the Grand National on Don’t Push It – a race which up until then had eluded him. That triumph was pivotal in his being voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December 2010.
McCoy ended his career with a record 4,358 wins – a feat which is unlikely to ever be equaled again – including 31 wins at the Cheltenham Festival.
5. Frankie Dettori
Although his career total wins doesn’t approach the other names in this list, no jockey has captured the public imagination as much as Frankie Dettori.
The larger-than-life Italian, who has won over 500 Group races, was already well known before riding all seven winners at Ascot in September 1996, but his Magnificent Seven became a springboard into the public eye.
Over the next couple of years Dettori hosted Top of the Pops, was a guest on This Is Your Life and TFI Friday and became a captain on Question of Sport.
Now 52, Dettori has announced he will retire at the end of this season.