Five Most Popular Jockeys in the History of Horse Racing

Becoming a jockey takes an immeasurable amount of dedication, courage, and skill because horse racing is not for the feeble-minded. We’ve seen many jockeys grace the different events and give us an incredible show over the years. 

That way, we continue to enjoy what the sport has for us as we look forward to the next event. Betting has also become easier, and punters can easily wager on Preakness Stakes odds.  

Since becoming a jockey is not an easy task, entering the top five rankings is not an easy feat. You have to be one of the best in your era and possess all the skills. 

The most famous jockeys have had memorable and legendary moments at various horse races. As a result, these jockeys have proven themselves in the sport’s history.

We have gone through the records and scoured the internet to bring you five of the most popular jockeys in the history of the sport. Let’s get into it.

Bill Shoemaker

The first name on our list is Bill Shoemaker, the Texan-born jockey who took the world of horse racing by storm. Even though he has a quite small size, Shoemaker went on to use his body to his advantage, and as a result, he became one of the greatest jockeys of all time. His career started when he was a teenager. 

Within a year of entering the sport and going pro, he became the US Champion Jockey. Throughout his career, he won the Kentucky Derby four times, the Belmont Stakes five times, and the Preakness Stakes twice. In addition, Shoemaker won many notable races, such as the Santa Anita Derby, Breeder’s Cup, etc. 

Mike Smith

Born in New Mexico on August 10th, 1965, Mike Smith is another name on our list. He began his journey with horses at the age of 8, and by 11, he was already riding in races. 

When he got to 16, he got his jockey’s license. After finding some success, he dropped out of high school, which began his travel and rise to a horse racing career.

The legend went on to win plenty of races, and as of January 2021, he had already won 5,607 races. He won the Preakness Stakes twice, Kentucky Derby twice, and Belmont Stakes three times during these wins. In 2018, he became the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown event, and he has had plenty of successes overseas. 

Lester Piggott

Lester Piggott is from a family with a horse racing background. His grandfather owned a Thoroughbred farm, and in addition to that, his father was the Grand National champion on three occasions. At the age of 12, Piggott started racing, and because of his background in Thoroughbreds, he excelled in racing.

He had a 42-year career, and throughout he won 4,493 races. These wins got him many titles from various prestigious events in different countries. Some of his notable trophies include the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, Singapore Derby, Ascot Gold Cup, and the 100 Guineas, to name a few. 

John Velazquez

John Velazquez is a Puerto Rican that started as a jockey in his home country, going to a jockey school for more than a year. At the age of 19, Velazquez moved to New York to get guidance from legendary jockey Angel Cordero Jr. After making a move; he started winning different stakes races, making a name for himself in the industry. 

Velazquez was Kentucky Derby champion four times, and he also won the Belmont Stakes twice. Aside from those two, he won up to races at the Breeders’ Cup. He also found success in the international scene, claiming the championships at the Dubai World Cup, Woodbine Mile, and King’s Stand Stakes. 

Victor Espinoza

Born in Mexico, Victor Espinoza was raised on a dairy farm in Hidalgo, Mexico. At 15, he left his family house to start working in Cancun with his brother as a Quarter horse trainer. 

When he became 17, Espinoza went to a jockey school, paying for the cost by driving a bus in Mexico City. He later moved fully to the US and started working as an apprentice at Bay Meadows.  

After that move, his career began to light up, winning stake races. He has won three Kentucky Derbies, the Belmont Stakes once, and three Preakness Stakes. 

Espinoza is still actively racing even though he was inaugurated as a hall of fame member in 2017. The Hall of Famer has won more than 3,200 races and several trophies.