For decades the racing world has been graced with one of the sport’s most endearing and captivating jockeys, Italian Stallion Frankie Dettori, but sadly the time has finally come to say goodbye.
In December, at the age of 52, the legendary jockey announced his retirement from the sport at the end of this season as he embarked on his 11-month farewell tour. The Breeders’ Cup meeting at Santa Anita on November 4 will likely be the site of his final race, the track where he steered Raven’s Pass to the first and only success by a British-educated rider in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Flying Frankie will bow out after enjoying a run that includes three British Flat Race Champion wins, 287 Group 1 race wins and 23 Classic British race wins. Racing fans will hope his storied career features a proper finale, but regardless, Dettori will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest jockeys the sport has ever seen.
But where exactly is he in this debate? And who are the other suitors who could lay claim to the nickname GOAT jockeys? Here’s our look at Dettori’s place among the all-time greats.
#5 Mr Tony McCoy
Widely regarded as the most prolific and finest National Hunt jockey of modern times, McCoy’s place among the greatest jockeys of all time is guaranteed.
The young Irish jockey burst onto the scene in 1992 after taking his first victory at Thurles Racecourse and has never looked back. McCoy holds the record for the most winners ridden in a season by a National Hunt jockey, 253, and was the fastest jockey to win 1,000 winners. He is also the only jump jockey to have won more than 2,500 races.
He had to wait for his first victory at the Aintree Grand National, but finally took the momentous win in 2010 with Don’t Push It to victory and fulfilling a lifelong ambition. But his career achieved truly legendary status among racing fans during a sensational run from the 1995/96 to 2014/15 season which saw him named British Champion Show Jumper Jockey for 20 consecutive seasons.
His achievements have been recognized as he was awarded an MBE in 2003 and an OBE in 2010, and knighted in 2016. His long list of accolades earns McCoy fifth place on our list.
#4 Frankie Dettori
Coming in at number four on our list is man of the hour Dettori. While his list of accomplishments accumulated over the past 35 years is what will be remembered, he also had a great year in 2023 and best horse racing betting sites having him at 5/2 to win the Sports Personality of the Year award.
As the Italian’s 35th birthday ends in 2023, which you suspect might invoke a sense of nostalgia, fourth on our list seems to accurately reflect his achievements and standing in the sport as a whole. Dettori’s potential was evident ever since he left school at the age of 13 to pursue a career as a jockey. He first caught the eye in 1990 for becoming the first teenager to reach over 100 wins in a season since the great Lester Piggott.
But perhaps his most impressive achievement is his record at Ascot in 1996, where he managed to claim victory in all seven races in a single day. He has done virtually everything in the sport and his successful partnerships with Stradivarius, Enable, Golden Horn, Authorized, Shamardal, Singspiel and many others around the world secure Dettori’s place among the most famous jockeys in racing.
#3Laffit Pincay Jr.
Fewer jockeys have been so successful in starting their career as Pincay Jr., with an astonishing eight wins in his first 11 races, yet fewer have gone on to maintain that success throughout.
The Panamanian Hall of Famer was a successful jockey in a career that spanned four decades and amassed a staggering 9,530 career wins, placing him third on the all-time career wins list. Pincay has won nearly every major race on the American calendar, including nine Hollywood Gold Cup wins, three straight Belmont Stakes victories and a treasured Kentucky Derby victory.
After his retirement in 2003, Pincay’s influence on the sport did not diminish. His sportsmanship left an indelible mark on the sport, and as such, the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award is presented annually on the day of the Gold Cup in Hollywood to a member of the racing community who has demonstrated outstanding “integrity, dedication, determination and distinction.” He is a legend in every sense of the word.
#2 Lester Piggot
Piggott earns second place on our list not just for his career win tally, but for his well-deserved nickname, ‘The long companion‘. Piggott started racing at the age of 12, with his experience in
The Thoroughbreds give him an advantage but do not retire from the track until nearly sixty. Piggott was born into a long line of jockeys and riders, a heritage he seemed keen to add to and did. During his career he amassed over 4000 victories, with 30 British Classics which included the British Triple Crown of 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and St Leger with Nijinsky in 1970.
Although he is 5ft 8in tall, his style has been emulated ever since and has seen him considered by many to be the greatest jockey in the history of the sport.
#1 William Shoemaker
However, this honor can only go to one on our list and the jockey who wins first place on this occasion is the American Bill Shoemaker. His jockey career took off almost immediately, becoming the United States Champion Jockeys within just a year of turning professional. Despite being only third on the American Flat jockeys’ all-time winning list, Shoemaker had a strike rate of over 20%, with over 8,000 wins in 40,350 races. Due to his short stature, Shoemaker was able to top the earning chart 10 times during his riding career with estimates suggesting the American earned close to $120 million as a jockey. In 1958 he was rightfully inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and his career as the most successful jockey to ever grace the sport remains intact.
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