Dubai: We are back with part two of our ‘Greatest’ horse racing series.
The sport is hugely compelling with so many inspirational stories to be told and we have broken down this analysis into three parts: the horses, jockeys and racecourses that have shaped and honed its image.
Part one looked at the best horses and this time we are looking at the best of the flat-racing riders.
TOP 5 GREATEST JOCKEYS
It’s never easy to select ‘the best of’ in most cases, but perhaps never more so than in sport, given the many variables that need to be considered before making your choice.
However, skills, overall form and resilience are some of the denominators that we relied on to help zero in on who we believe at the best flat-racing jockeys in the world today, with those based predominantly in Europe getting a bit of an advantage.
So here are our Top 5 best jockeys in the business today. This is very subjective but it’s purely our pick.
Home base: Britain
Without doubt one of the best jockeys on the planet. Moore, who during the early days of his career was based at the Zabeel Stables in Dubai, is the man any trainer or owner would love to see on board his horse. His reputation as the most reliable jockey in the business is offset by his uncanny ability in the saddle.
Jockeys fear him, the crowds love him.
Moore is not flashy, both in the saddle and out of it. He’s a man of few words and many skills. He’s had his fair share of accidents and injuries but every time has bounced back even stronger as if to catch up on lost time.
Moore is a big-race rider. He thrives on the big stage, shows no nerves and has one of the coolest heads in the business. Not to mention the power in his shoulders and legs. He gets a horse to do things not many jockeys are capable of. His riding style might not be pretty, but it’s effective, much like Kieren Fallon in his glory days.
Like many jockey, Moore was born into a racing family, with his father being a trainer and siblings Jamie, Joshua and Hayley all riders.
While Moore has dominated the scene in his native Britain, where he has been crowned champion jockey on multiple occasions, he has also excelled in racecourses around the world.
In 2014 he won arguably Australia’s biggest two races: the Cox Plate (Adelaide) and the Melbourne Cup (Protectionist) and added Group 1 victories in Ireland, Italy, Germany, France, the UAE, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada and the US.
Home base: Britain
Dettori is the best advertisement flat-racing could have asked for. Charismatic, a big crowd favourite and a genuine talent in the saddle, Dettori embodies all the characteristics of a successful sportsman.
Ever since he was groomed to be the talent that he is by legendary trainer Luca Cumani, the Italian picked up the gauntlet to shape a career that would make his the most recognisable name in the sport in addition to the most sought after big-race jockey.
Dettori is fiercely ambitious and since his unique moment at Ascot in September 1996 when he rode all seven winners, he has got better and better to cement his place among the best riders of his generation.
However, Dettori’s extraordinary career took shape when he was recruited as the stable jockey to the power Dubai-owned racing stable, Godolphin. With the stable, and working alongside legendary Emirati handler Saeed Bin Surour,
During his time with Godolphin, Dettori would be privileged to ride some of the finest thoroughbred race horses in the world among them Balanchine, Daylami, Dubai Millennium and Halling.
Dettori style of riding combines an American and European approach. He is a superb judge of pace and has the power and technique to extra an extra something from his horse, particularly when it comes to a close finish.
When he wins everyone expects Dettori to perform his flamboyant ‘flying dismount’, which he stole from South American jockey Angel Cordero Jr and he never disappoints, although those close to him often watch the act with clenched hands.
Dettori’s resume is second to none, he has won 10 English Classics, including five St Legers and the coveted Epsom Derby at the 15th attempt when he partnering Authorized to victory.
Home base: France
Soumillion is one of the most famous riders in France, where he has been a multiple champion. Admired for his flair and powerful finish, Soumillon is a leading figure at every major race meeting anywhere in the world.
He was born into the sport as the son of jumps rider Jean-Marc Soumillon. Among the taller rider, he is married to former Miss France and TV presenter Sophie Thalmann, who is close to six feet tall.
Soumillon rose to fame riding for legendary French trainer Andre Fabre with who he has won some of the biggest prizes in the sport.
Soumillon famously rode five winners on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Day, including three Group 1 races. In recent years he has teamed up with Godolphin handler Saeed Bin Surour, for whom he made history by winning back-to-back Dubai World Cups with Thunder Snow.
Bin Surour has so much faith in him that, although he is not retained by Godolphin, Soumillon is given some top rides around the world in races such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup.
One of the highlights of his career was when he teamed up with legendary South African trainer Mike de Kock to plunder some of the biggest prizes at the Dubai World Cup Carnival at Nad Al Sheba racecourse and Meydan.
Extremely adaptable with horses, and tracks, Soumillon is well respected by his peers in the dressing room many of whom admire his natural talent as a race jockey.
Home base: Britain & Dubai
Doyle is a high-class jockey. Although his resume is not as extravagant as a Dettori or Moore, he is not short of skills and can match the best riders when it comes to a close finish.
A new breed of jockey who dedicates hours to working out in the gym, Doyle has been employed by Godolphin since 2014, which is a testimony to his skills and temperament.
Doyle has also ridden for The Queen at Royal Ascot where he saddled Magnetic Charm to finish second in the Sandringham Stakes.
Doyle has ridden at all the major racecourses in the world from England to Australia, Ireland, France and Dubai. He created quite a stir Down Under while picking up several exciting wins in the famous Godolphin blue silks.
Doyle has been groomed by his mother Jacqueline, a former trainer, while his sister Sophie is also a successful rider in North America.
He recorded his first Group victory for Godolphin aboard the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Local Time in the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket in October 2014 and has never looked back. He recorded his first Classic success for the stable on talented filly Local Time in the UAE Oaks at Meydan in 2015.
Local race fans in the UAE will remember Doyle for his ride aboard Jungle Cat who won the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan in 2018.
John R Velazquez
Nationality: Puerto Rican
Home Base: North America
Velazquez saw his career take off soon after he moved to New York in 1990. By 2004 and 2005 he was the Champion Jockey by earnings and both years was bestowed with the coveted Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey. He was inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2012, rode his 5,000th winner in 2013, and became the leading money-earning jockey in the history of the sport in 2014.
All this sounds pretty awesome, but Velazquez has worked hard in his trade to be the best and earn the respect of the racing world.
Blessed with a work-ethic that is second to none, Velazquez is disciplined, committed and positive in everything he does, be it riding out on the gallops before the break of dawn, assisting stable hands in the yards and every time he gets on board a horse.
The trainers love him, the stable hands do and so do the horses. No doubt, as he has won over 6,000 races in his career, and his earnings have surpassed $300 million.
There is something so unique about the man who becomes a major factor in every race that he rides. Who can ever forget his ride aboard Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Kentucky Derby? He claimed that title again onboard Always Dreaming in 2017 and he has also won the Belmont Stakes twice.
Strength and continuity are the characteristics of any sportsman’s success in any part of life and these are two key traits that Velazquez possesses in abundance. Factors that helped make him the legend that he is.