One of the most notable stories of the 2022/23 National Hunt campaign was the slightly surprising retirement of the hugely popular Tom Scudamore, who called time on his career, having recorded 1,511 wins in the saddle – a total which makes him the ninth most successful jockey in the history of the sport.
But who are the men to have bettered that tally? Davy Russell, Paul Carberry, and Peter Scudamore sit eight, seventh and sixth, but here we take a closer look at the top five names on the list.
5. Richard Dunwoody
- Career Wins – 1,874
- Riding Career – 1983-99
- British Jockeys Championship Wins – 3
Sitting in fifth spot is the man closely associated with one of the most popular horses in National Hunt history – the legendary Desert Orchid. Born in Belfast in 1964, Dunwoody made his race-riding debut in 1983 and went on to forge an incredible career. So incredible, that by the time of his retirement, he had climbed to the top of this list (albeit temporarily).
Dunwoody won just about all there is to win, including two Grand Nationals, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, and four King George’s – two of which came aboard good old Dessie.
The energetic rider certainly hasn’t put his feet up since retiring, occupying his time in writing two books, producing a photographic exhibition, walking 2,000 miles across Japan, and even further than that during a 48-day trek to the South Pole! All of that, and he still managed to squeeze in a little Cha Cha.
4. Barry Geraghty
- Career Wins – 1,920
- Riding Career – 1997-2020
- Irish Jockeys Championship Wins – 2
The fourth leading rider of all time also hails from the Emerald Isle (this will become a theme), with Barry Geraghty being born in County Meath in 1943. Making his racecourse debut in 1997, by 1999/2000 he was claiming the first of two Irish Champion Jockey titles.
Over the years, Geraghty regularly proved himself to be the man for the big occasion, racking up a mightily impressive 43 wins at the Cheltenham – placing him second in the all-time list – and claiming Grand National glory aboard Monty’s Pass in 2003. Indeed, 2003 proved to be a golden year for Geraghty, who also picked up five wins at the Cheltenham Festival, on his way to being crowned the Irish Sports Personality of the Year.
The first man to ever win the Grand National and the “Big Four” of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Champion Hurdle, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Geraghty was selected to replace AP McCoy as the retained rider for JP McManus in 2015 – high praise indeed!
3. Ruby Walsh
- Career Wins – 2,767
- Riding Career – 1995-2019
- Irish Jockeys Championship Wins – 12
If this list was a measure of style in the saddle, Ruby Walsh would come out on top every time. Not only was Walsh easy on the eye, but he was also supremely effective. The son of former champion amateur, and successful trainer, Ted Walsh, Rupert Walsh was born into the game and soon proved to be a natural horseman.
It was aboard his father’s horse Papillon that Walsh first exploded into the limelight when winning the 2000 Grand National, but that was to be just the start of things to come.
Enjoying strong associations with both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls, Walsh was the man aboard Kauto Star for all five of his wins in the King George and three Gold Cup Successes. 12 times Champion Jockey in Ireland, and the all-time leading rider in the history of the Cheltenham Festival – with 59 wins – Walsh is also one of only very few riders to have been immortalised in song.
2. Richard Johnson
- Career Wins – 3,814
- Riding Career – 1994-2021
- British Jockeys Championship – 4
Having finished as the runner-up in the Jockeys Championship on a record-setting 17 occasions, it seems fitting that Richard Johnson should also sit second on this list.
Johnson may miss out on the top spot, but he is comfortably clear of the rest and, having ridden over 100 winners in every season between 1996/97 and 2019/20, must go down as one of the most consistent jockeys to ever grace the track.
A reliable source of winners at the smaller tracks, Johnson was also no stranger to success on the big stage – picking up 22 wins at the Cheltenham Festival, including at least one in each of the four championship races. Of those Cheltenham Triumphs, the pick of the bunch came in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup, when the combined grit of Johnson and Native River proved impossible to deny. A more unwanted record on the Johnson CV stems from his record-setting 21 unsuccessful rides in the Grand National.
1. Sir Anthony McCoy
- Career Wins – 4,348
- Riding Career – 1994-2015
- British Jockeys Championship Wins – 20
Having begun with a Northern Irishman, we end with another. Who else but the legend that is Sir Anthony McCoy? During his time in the sport, it is fair to say that McCoy could not have been more dominant. A professional rider for 20 seasons, he won the British Jockeys Championship each and every year. Prodigiously talented, it is perhaps McCoy’s steel and determination which most set him apart from the crowd.
Teaming up with the powerful Martin Pipe operation in 1997, McCoy embarked on a phenomenal run of success, breaking the record for the number of jumps winners in a season with 253 successful rides in 1996/97, before eclipsing that total with an incredible 289 in 2001/02 – taking him past the long-standing record of flat jockey Sir Gordon Richards.
Highlights of such a phenomenal career are almost too many to list here but include 31 wins at the Cheltenham Festival, all four British and Irish Grand Nationals, and becoming the first jockey to win the Sports Personality of the Year award in 2010. In terms of individual rides, his effort aboard Wichita Lineman in the 2009 William Hill Trophy perfectly encompassed his never say die attitude, but his most popular success came when landing his first Grand National at the fifteenth attempt aboard Don’t Push It in 2010.