There are numerous factors that influence horse racing betting but it is true to say that one of the most important of these is who on board a particular horse. A top jockey can be the single biggest influence on a horse’s success in a race and the leading riders are in huge demand.
Horse racing is a physically demanding and dangerous sport. Insurance premiums for jockeys are amongst the highest for any professional sportsman and between 1993 and 1996 there were over six and a half thousand injuries caused to jockeys whilst racing. Most of the leading jockeys have had injuries that have prevented them from racing at some time in their careers.
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The top jockeys in racing history have a well deserved place amongst the icons of sport. Globally, household names such as Willie Shoemaker, Lester Piggott and Sir Gordon Richards dominate the lists of "all time greats" alongside recent riders such as Tony McCoy, Edgar Prado and Kent Desormeaux.
There are currently twenty five jockeys who have been inaugurated into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame. Probably the most famous of these is Scobie Breasley, an Aussie racing legend who won over three thousand races in his career. He famously won the Caulfield Cup in four consecutive seasons as well as triumphing in some of the Europe’s most prestigious events including the Epsom Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Four other legendary names in racing joined Breasley in being inaugural inductees into the Hall of Fame. Roy Higgins, Tom Hales, George Moore and Darby Munro won thousands of races between them including a total of six Melbourne Cups, nine Sydney Cups and sixteen VRC Derbies.
Top jockeys have a difficult balancing act to perform to remain in peak physical condition. They have to ensure their weight stays as low as possible whilst maintaining their strength and power in order to control a thoroughbred racing at speeds in excess of sixty kilometres per hour. The job can also be extremely tiring and demanding as jockeys are flown from meeting to race meeting to fulfil their commitments to both trainers and owners.
In order to award annual prizes to outstanding jockeys each Australian state has a jockey’s "Premiership". This consists of a "league table" accumulating jockey wins and places in order to determine who is the top rider over a racing season.
Of the current breed of talented Australian jockeys, two have been at the forefront of the sport in the last two decades. Darren Beadman’s career has been successful right since he was a young apprentice and he won a Golden Slipper in 1984 aged just nineteen. Before his retirement in 1997 to join a Christian ministry he had forty six Group One wins to his credit, including a record breaking season in 1994/5 when we won one hundred and eighty six races to take the Sydney Premiership title. Beadman returned to racing in 2000 and continued his success, winning almost three hundred races in just two seasons between 2004 and 2006.
Arguably Australia’s most consistent jockey in recent years has been Damien Oliver, a rider from a well established racing family. Sadly, both Oliver’s father Roy and brother Jason were tragically killed in racing accidents and the Victoria rider himself was badly injured after a fall at Moonee Valley.
Oliver’s first Group One win came on the Bart Cummings trained Submariner in 1990 and he has since won the Melbourne Cup twice, the Cox Plate twice and the Caulfield Cup four times. He has been awarded the Scobie Breasley medal for being Victoria’s leading jockey on six occasions.
2009 saw another terrific year for Oliver as he once again finished atop the Victoria Premiership. After almost nine hundred races the two leading riders – Oliver and Craig Williams – could not be separated at the final meeting of the season and tied the title with seventy one race wins apiece.
Backing a horse with a top jockey on board is a well-established punting technique. Champion jockeys can maximise their mount’s potential and practically will a horse to the finishing line with their incredible skill. Competitive Premierships such as in Victoria in 2009 can also lead to huge crowds at turf clubs and increased wagers on the leading jockeys vying for the title.
Other top Australian jockeys in the 2008/09 season include twenty nine year old Hugh Bowman who took the competitive New South Wales Premiership title. Shane Scriven won the Queensland Premiership by the slenderest of margins from Brent Evans and Chad Lever triumphed in the South Australia Premiership on the final day of the season by winning the $70,000 Dermody Stakes.
The advantages of having a top jockey aboard your chosen horse cannot be overestimated. The long apprenticeships they undertake, their physical capabilities and terrific horsemanship can often be the difference between a win and a place. Many betters have their own "favourite" jockeys and discovering who is partnering a horse in a race can be the all the push a punter needs to back that particular horse.