Despite our love for the equine superstars which have given us so much joy over hundreds of years of the Sport of Kings, the game would be nothing without the larger than life characters who ride, train, own, bet and report on these glorious animals.
Sir Anthony McCoy was known for his association with great jumps trainer Martin Pipe and rode a record 4,358 winners in total.
‘AP’ was crowned Champion Jockey in the National Hunt sphere an amazing 20 times, all in consecutive years and in fact in every season that he was a professional rider. His achievements are all the more amazing considering that at 5’10” he is regarded as very tall, even for a NH jockey.
His popularity was proven to have outgrown horseracing when in 2010 he became the first jockey to win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.
McCoy stands as one of the greatest personalities in horse racing of all time. Not surprisingly he was knighted in 2016 for his services to the sport.
The son of top class trainer Ted Walsh, Ruby is a real punter’s pal and has been a world class jumps rider for the past 19 years now.
Walsh has ridden over 2000 winners, over 50 of them at the Cheltenham Festival which has very much secured his place as one of the greats of the sport.
He has been associated not just with quantity, but with great quality having ridden the likes of Azertyuiop, Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded to victory.
His 56 Festival wins make him the most successful jockey in its history and he has been the leading rider at the event an unprecedented eleven times in the last 14 years.
Eddery was a hugely popular race rider in the UK, winning the Derby, the Oaks and the 2000 Guineas three times each as well as an amazing four St Leger’s at Doncaster.
His success in the classics made him a proper household name among racing fans and a trusted one at that.
Eddery is the joint holder of the most jockey’s championship titles having won it 11 times in his career and rode 4,632 winners in Britain, a figure beaten by only one jockey in history.
His personal life is a much sadder story, and he battled alcoholism for many years.
He passed away in 2015 at the age of 63, although the main story was less about his racing career and more about how he left his fortune to his partner rather than his family.
His wife left him in 2009 blaming his drinking, and 6 months later Pat entered a relationship with a stable girl, Emma Owen, who inherited everything.
Carson, for those of more recent generations, is known most of all for his bubbly hosting with Clare Balding on the BBC, being remembered for having to stand on a box to appear at the same height as his co-presenter when live on air.
It would be unfair to remember him only for that however, as Carson was in fact a top class jockey in his time and partnered such greats as Nashwan, Danehill, Ela-Mana-Mou, Dayjur and Rodrigo de Triano.
Carson won four Derbies, the last of them in 1994, the same number of 2000 Guineas’ and an amazing 8 QEII Stakes to cement his place among the better riders of the modern era.
Cauthen became the first jockey to win over $6million in a year way back in 1977, something even now most UK-based jocks can only dream of.
He was also the youngest jockey to win the American Triple Crown and was the only jockey to be named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in a country dominated by American football, baseball and basketball.
Despite his popularity on home turf he did come to the UK and he made a huge impact too, winning the Derby at Epsom twice and to this day he is the only jockey to win both the Derby in England and the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
One of the true racing greats in every way; Piggott was a personality and a proper tough sportsman.
In terms of numbers, it’s hard to argue with his legacy.
He rode 4,493 winners which is incredible enough but considering within that there were five 2000 Guineas’, 8 St Leger’s and a quite unreal 9 Epsom Derby wins it’s easy to see why he is considered by most the greatest of all time.
The industry’s annual jockey awards are named in his honour, being called The Lesters which is a fitting tribute to a great man otherwise known as the Long Fellow.
Some jockeys in the sport’s history may have achieved more in the game, some will have a slightly better technique, but few have done more to popularise the sport than Lanfranco Dettori has over the years.
The immensely popular Italian has won most of the world’s biggest races, including when partnering racing greats such as Dubai Millennium, Golden Horn, Authorized and current racing favourite Enable.
One of his biggest achievements in the sport though came on Champions’ Day at Ascot in 1996 when he managed to win all seven races on the card, a feat that was reported on by the wider news media and not just the sports hacks.
His notoriety has been achieved as much by off-course events as those on the turf. Dettori was suspended from racing for six months having been found guilty of taking a prohibited substance. He appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, A Question of Sport and was even involved in a light plane crash causing him injuries.
For the last five years, Dettori has operated as a freelance jockey since splitting with leading owners Godolphin though he has a strong working relationship with top UK trainer John Gosden, for whom he rides Enable.
The great Lester Piggott has described Dettori as the best jockey currently riding in the world. Praise indeed.
Although often presenting a rather dour demeanour on camera, Moore is regarded as a punter’s pal given his strong riding style which has elevated him over the years to one of the leading jockeys in world racing.
Moore won the British jockeys championship in 2006, 2008 and 2009 but since then has concentrated on quality and is now first jockey to the Coolmore team, riding horses trained by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland despite still spending huge amounts of time riding in England.
His popularity is compounded by his success worldwide, having ridden the winners of the Melbourne Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Turf (four times), the Japan Cup and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe among others.
Before Ryan Moore, there was Mick Kinane. First jockey to Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore team when they really took off, Kinane was on board such greats as Yeats and Galileo as they won their iconic races.
An astonishing 34-year race riding career ended in late 2009, a career which saw wins in the English and Irish Derby, the Oaks, the 2000 Guineas, the Melbourne Cup, Canadian International, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Belmont Stakes and many more.
His amiable personality solidified his popularity with the racing public and he always appeared open and honest during post-race interviews.
The softly spoken, gentile blueblood was one of the most popular trainers to ever handle horses in the UK.
Cecil was Champion Trainer in Britain fully 10 times and trained an incredible 25 classic winners though he gained most of them with fillies which is in stark contrast to our other greats. His 75 Royal Ascot winners make him the master of that festival.
Just when it seemed Cecil’s training career was quietening down and the winners were drying up, along came a certain horse called Frankel and so the master trainer proved he still had it, guiding the great colt to his 14 consecutive wins.
He became Sir Henry when he was knighted in 2011 but passed away just two years later at the age of 70.
True, he is handed a huge amount of the world’s best horses to train, but Aidan O’Brien is a true modern great whose achievements will go down in history as some of the most extraordinary ever in the sport.
At just 48 and with many years left in him, O’Brien has trained six Derby winners, eight 2000 Guineas winners and across the pond 6 Breeders’ Cup Turf winners from Ballydoyle, where he trains for the Coolmore team.
Despite having had the progeny of Galileo almost to himself over the last few years, his own talents are not in question as his horses show a tendency to improve and be very tough, testament to his handling skills.
Although no relation, Vincent O’Brien was the trainer at Ballydoyle before Aidan O’Brien’s time, and to say he was successful is an understatement.
In 2003 O’Brien was voted the greatest influence in racing history in a poll conducted by the Racing Post.
It’s not hard to figure out why.
O’Brien trained both flat and jumps horses with equal skill, something which is unique in itself and won the Derby six times as well as winning three Grand Nationals.
The last Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky, was trained by O’Brien and the fact that both the horse and trainer are known for their versatility is probably not a coincidence.
He was so well respected that his biography was published in 2005, just a few years before he died in 2009, aged 92.
Sir Michael, as he is, was born in Barbados but has been involved in UK horse racing since he was 19, coming to get involved in the sport back in 1964 which is something that gives him his unique accent.
Stoute has sent out five Derby winners and the same number of 2000 Guineas winners during a career which has seen him crowned Champion Trainer ten times spread between 1981, when he trained Shergar, right up to 2009.
A high point for the Newmarket-based handler came in 2013 when he trained Estimate to win the Ascot Gold Cup at the Royal meeting for owner The Queen.
A modern great and larger than life at 6ft 5in tall, Gosden is arguably peaking at age 66 despite training since the 80’s and sending out 3,000 winners worldwide.
His association with top class Derby winner Golden Horn and current champion Enable means he is at the top of his game presently and has been entrusted with spending Sheikh Mohammed’s money at auction for his Godolphin operation.
Gosden is based in Newmarket but has also spent time training in California and is Britain’s best hope of landing the trainer’s championship ahead of Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien.
Despite going on to become Champion National Hunt Trainer 15 times, Pipe’s training career did not stand so auspiciously with his first winner a lowly selling player in 1975.
He waited 14 seasons before becoming champion trainer for the first time, but went on to train over 4,000 winners in his career and is remembered also for his extremely successful partnership with the greatest NH jockey of all time, AP McCoy.
To give him his full and varied titles; Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the Ruler of Dubai has had an interest in horse racing going back all of his life.
Sheikh Mohammed owns Darley Stud, the largest breeding operation in the world with satellites in England, Ireland, Australia and the USA. As well as Darley he is the leading partner in the Maktoum family’s Godolphin operation, owners of some of the top racehorses in the world, and host as Ruler of Dubai of the Dubai World Cup meeting every March at Meydan Racecourse.
There is an undercurrent of a rivalry between his Goldolphin operation and the Irish based Coolmore team, though recently he has begun once again buying some of their breeding stock.
Despite a great business career in Saudi Arabia and beyond, Khalid Abdullah is best known for his horse racing exploits and has been lucky (or good) enough to have owned four of the greatest of all time in Dancing Brave, Frankel, Arrogate (USA) and Enable.
Having purchased an already established stud farm in 1982, Abdullah set up Juddmonte Farms and it’s an operation which is responsible for the breeding of many, many Group One winners around the world.
That doesn’t look like stopping any time soon with Frankel’s progeny already looking top class and with many a breeding season still to come.
Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum
Appearing on the owners list simply as Hamdan Al Maktoum, Sheikh Mohammed’s brother and the UAE’s Minister of Finance and Industry owns the long established Shadwell stud and has been responsible for such racing greats as Nashwan.
His blue and white colours are a staple at British racecourses and can be seen every single racing day throughout the summer months.
He first became interested in thoroughbred flat racing while in the UK, and opened his own stable here in 1981, although he also has racing interests in Ireland and the USA.
He has been involved in politics since 1971, and did a lot of work to transform the UAE into the destination it is today.
Best known for his association with John Magnier and other partners within Coolmore, they base their horses at Ballydoyle with trainer Aidan O’Brien and have had frankly awesome success around the globe.
A former bookmaker and successful professional gambler, Tabor is still known to put his money where his mouth is when he is confident one of his horses is about to go in.
Part owner the great Derby winner and champion sire, Galileo, he also owns the online bookmaker Bet Victor.
Love him or loathe him, the divisive McCririck and his mutton chops became immensely famous for his part in presenting live racing coverage on ITV Sport and later Channel 4 Racing.
His unique arm movements while discussing betting were due to his career as a tic-tac man, i.e. someone who used traditional signs to communicate odds to bookmakers on course and made him both a popular and ridiculed member of the TV line-up.
Often a controversial and eccentric man, his mainstream racing TV career effectively ended in 2012 when Channel 4 did not include him in their new line-up.
He remained active in racing though, until his death in 2019.
The iconic voice of horse racing from the late 1940’s right through to his retirement in 1997.
In calling races such as the Grand National every year, O’Sullevan was synonymous with the sport for 50 years before unfortunately falling to cancer in 2015, aged 97.
His unmistakable voice was often mimicked, but nobody could ever truly replace the great man.