Who is, or was, the most successful jockey ever?

In Britain, the most successful jockey ever was Sir Gordon Richards who, between 1921 and 1954, rode 4,870 winners. The late Pat Eddery, who rode 4,633 winners between 1969 and 2003, and the incomparable Lester Piggott, who rode 4,493 winners between 1948 and 1994, are second and third on the all-time list, while Sir Anthony McCoy – far and away the most successful jockey in the history of National Hunt racing – is not far behind, with 4,358 winners.

However, none of the British jockeys can hold a candle to Canadian-born jockey Russell A. Baze who, between 1974 and 2016, rode an astonishing 12,842 winners – from 53,578 rides, at a strike rate of 24% – in North America. Baze is, comfortably, the most successful jockey in the history of horse racing worldwide, even outscoring prolific winners Laffit A. Pincay Jr. and Bill “The Shoe” Shoemaker by several thousand.

How many times did Lester Piggott win the Derby?

Lester Piggott rode his first winner, The Chase, at Haydock Park in 1948, at the age of just 12, and his last, Palacegate Jack, at the same Merseyside course in 1994, at the age of 59. In total, Piggott rode 4,493 winners, including 30 English Classic winners.

On his first ride in the Derby, as a precocious 15-year-old, in 1951 – long before the introduction of starting stalls – Piggott failed to make much of an impact when he was left at the start on the talented, but mulish, Zucchero. However, he opened his account in the Epsom Classic three years later, aboard Never Say Die, whose victory, at 33/1, made him the youngest jockey ever to win the Derby.

Further success followed, aboard the heavily backed favourite Crepello in 1957 and the ‘underrated’ St. Paddy in 1960, but by the time of his fourth Derby win, aboard the odds-on Sir Ivor, in 1968, Piggott had perfected the short, ‘bent hairpin’ riding style that became his trademark. His next two Derby winners, Nijinsky – who became the last horse to win the coveted ‘Triple Crown’ – in 1970 and Roberto in 1972, both started favourite, but his seventh Derby winner, Empery in 1976, was not expected by anyone, including Piggott himself, to beat the favourite, Wollow. He did, comfortably, and his victory, at 10/1, made Piggott the most successful jockey in the history of the Derby.

‘The Long Fellow’ – as Piggott was affectionately known – was not finished yet, though, winning the Derby again on The Minstrel in 1977 and Teenoso in 1983. Piggott rode in the Derby six more times, without success, but his career record of nine wins from 36 rides may never be beaten.

Did Lester Piggott ever win the Grand National?

Lester Piggott is arguably the greatest Flat jockey of all time. Between 1948 and 1995, he rode 4,493 winners on the Flat, including 30 British Classic winners, and became Champion Jockey 11 times. Piggott never rode over fences, so he could never have won the Grand National but, early in his career, he did ride successfully over hurdles.

In fact, Piggott rode his first winner over obstacles, Eldoret, at Wincanton on Boxing Day, 1953. The following spring – still three months before his first Derby winner, Never Say Die – he won the Birdlip Hurdle, the opening race at what became the Cheltenham Festival, on Mull Sack and the Triumph Hurdle, in those days run at the now-defunct Hurst Park, on Prince Charlemagne, within the space of a few days. All in all, between 1953 and 1959, Lester Piggott rode 20 winners over hurdles, mainly for his father, Keith.

Lester Piggott may never have won the Grand National, but his grandfather, Ernie, rode three Grand National winners – Jerry M in 1912 and Poethlyn in 1918 and 1919 – and his father saddled the 1963 Grand National winner, Ayala; perhaps the headline question is not quite so absurd, after all?