The success that horse racing has maintained over the decades is quite astonishing. It remains a sport that a lot of people are passionate about, and a big part of that allegiance is the jockeys.
Taking the step to becoming a jockey requires mastery, devotion, and bravery. The most recognizable jockeys possess all those traits. That said, pinpointing the most successful jockeys of all time is always up for debate. It’s not just the complex nature of the sport that causes that, but also the various aspects that play a role in creating that success.
Nevertheless, the jockeys that warrant being in the discussion combine all the aspects mentioned and have made a name for themselves in the robust world of horse racing.
Here are three all American legends who took the world of horse racing by surprise:
1. Bill Shoemaker (1931 – 2003) The Shoe was born prematurely on August 19, 1931. His parents thought he wasn’t going to survive due to his small size, but little did they know the odds would ultimately play in his favor. His small size gave him a great advantage as a jockey. Shoemaker’s career took a quick head start. He started getting recognition when he was just a teenager.
During his astonishing career, Shoemaker reached many milestones. He crushed the Kentucky Derby four times, the Preakness Stakes twice, and the Belmont Stakes five times. Shoemaker Won a whopping 8,883 races in the span of his career. And he held that top spot for many years. Shoemaker was inaugurated into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1958.
2. Mike Smith (1965 – present) Big Money Mike spent most of his childhood at his grandparents’ New Mexico farm. That gave him the kick start he needed to pursue his successful career as a jockey. He started breaking horses at the very young age of 8, and at 11 he started competing in races.
By the age of 16, Smith received his jockey license and quickly dropped out of high school in an attempt to establish his success on the Midwestern racing circuit. Through October 2021, Mike has Won 26 Breeders’ Cup races – a record – and the Kentucky Derby twice. Smith has Won 5,624 career races as of October 10th, and he made it to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2003.
3. Pat Day (1953 – present) Born in Brush, Colorado, the now-retired jockey kicked off his career as a wrestler. As fans, we are happy he discovered another unique skill set in which to best use his diminutive stature. Day learned how to ride from his father and participated in rodeo events before commencing his career as a jockey.
In his astounding career he tallied 8,803 Wins, he Won the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Jockey four times. He ranks fourth all-time among jockeys in total earnings. Pat was enlisted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1991.
Each of these gentlemen had a huge impact on the world of horse racing and elevated the game to the next level. The degree of expertise these legends have shared with us elevated the standards of the sport.
There are many talented up-and-comers who display the same notable traits these three possess, and we wish them the best of luck and safe trips as they strive for their own place in history.