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Posted 2019-09-24 07:25:59  
Richest jockeys in history

Among today’s top riders in Europe, there is more to the bottom line than merely their percentage cut of win and place prize-money, with retainers as first jockey to an owner or trainer making a significant contribution.

As well as in some cases the potential to earn a slice of the action if you win a stallion-making race or two on a potential future star of the covering sheds.

While, as in any other walk of life, such contractual details are closely guarded secrets, these days the amount of money won by a jockey’s mounts in any given season is a matter of public record.

And it is not unreasonable to assume that the more win and place prize-money you earn for your employers, the stronger your bargaining power when it comes to negotiating a retainer or commercial sponsorships.

Those are the caveats, here is our power top ten

10. Sir Gordon Richards (active 1921-54)

The 26-time champion jockey, Richards benefited from both a long and lucrative career, and in the biography Knight of the Turf Michael Seth-Smith wrote:

“By the standards of the era Gordon earned a very large income. He invariably claimed that the figure of £20,000 a year constantly mentioned in the press was far too high, but it was certainly over £10,000, at a time when £1,000 was thought to be a very adequate sum.”

Using standard inflationary calculations, his annual income of £10,000 equates to £274,000 in modern money, while in terms of societal value (see Archer) the 2019 version of Richards might hope to be raking in around £1 million a year.

On his death in 1986 Richards had a recorded wealth of £835,624, which may be evidence that a training career for even the most successful jockey will take its financial toll.

9. Lester Piggott (1948-85 and 1990-95)

Piggott never shared any shred of financial information with either his biographer Dick Francis nor, at one crucial juncture, with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

Piggott had at least two advantages over his predecessors in that he was able to benefit from the first wave of international racing, while he was probably the first jockey to be offered lucrative stallion nominations.

At the time of his imprisonment for tax evasion in 1987 Piggott’s personal fortune was estimated at £20m.

8. Fred Archer (1869-86)

The greatest jockey of the 19th century, Archer earned his somewhat double-sided compliment of a nickname as much for his penchant for personal accumulation as for his ability to generate it for those backing his rides.

Estimates of his annual income, not an inconsiderable part of which came from a retainer with Lord Falmouth, hovered around £10,000, an almost inconceivable amount in the 1880s.

He did leave us with one concrete clue as to how financially successful he had been during his tragically short career, namely the £60,000 that was proved in his will after he took his own life at the age of 29.

In strict buying power that figure now equates to £6.42m, but some economists prefer to think of where such a fortune would have placed Archer in relation to the rest of society at the time of his death in 1886.

Looked at in those terms, a person with £60,000 worth of assets in 1886 would need a net worth of £50m today to be in the same bracket, relative to modern Britain as a whole.

7. Ryan Moore (2000-present)

Coolmore’s retained jockey holds the distinction of being the only rider in Britain ever to break the £8m barrier for domestic winnings in a season.

Moore achieved the feat in both 2016 and 2017, the same two years he established and then matched a record for a European-based jockey in riding 22 Group or Grade 1 winners worldwide.

Taking 2016 as an example, his mounts earned another £2,089,063 in Ireland and £3.6m in Japan, while just the five Group 1 winners abroad netted a further £6,671,713.

That means, even if we discard the ‘shrapnel’ made up of win and place money in lesser foreign races, he made a cool £20.4m for those owners and trainers that placed their faith in him.

Japan has indeed been good to Moore since he began wintering there seriously in 2010, with his career win and place prize-money in the country to the end of 2018 standing at more than £25.5m.

In total, Moore-ridden horses have made £125,456,518 for their owners, and at the age of 35 there is plenty of scope for him to push higher up our list.

6. Frankie Dettori (1986-present)

If there is one name on this list where the earnings of the horses he has ridden might only tell part of the story, it is Frankie Dettori.

After all, his near 20-year relationship with Sheikh Mohammed must have been among the most rewarding retainers in the history of racing.

During his 33-year career, Dettori’s mounts have earned almost as much in big races abroad as his 3,000 plus winners and numerous placed horses at home.

He has earned £77.5m for his domestic employers while his big-race wins in Ireland account for a further £5.7m. But his enormous success from the US to Dubai, via continental Europe to Hong Kong and Japan, has netted an equally impressive £64.1m, bringing us to an estimated career total of £147.4m at the end of 2018.

5. Bill Shoemaker (1949-90)

While Bill Shoemaker’s earnings from his 40,000-plus career rides netted connections an impressive $123,375,524, that is only good enough for 41st on the domestic list.

Yet nearly 30 years after his retirement and 15 years after his death, his total of 8,833 career wins in North America is still third on the historical record, while only Pat Day and Russell Baze can match his 22 per cent strike-rate.

In a career spanning such a time period it is difficult to put a modern-day figure on his earnings, but by converting his closing total using inflation since 1990 one arrives at a present-day figure of $237m (£195m).

4. Christophe Lemaire (1999-present)

While Christophe Lemaire is unlikely to ever catch ‘The Legend’ Yutaka Take in total career winnings, he is making some eyewatering inroads in just his fifth full season in Japan.

In both 2017 and 2018 – the year he broke Take’s record for the number of wins in a Japanese season with 215 successes – Lemaire broke the ¥4bn (£31 million) barrier in win and place money.

The top Japanese-based jockeys clearly earn the best living of any riders in the world, but it should be pointed out that their take from those huge purses is ‘only’ five per cent and not ten.

Lemaire made a very good living in his native France with retainers for the Niarchos Family and later the Aga Khan, and broke the €5m barrier for domestic win and place gains in 2009.

But Japan was a second home for 12 years before he made the permanent switch, and win and place prize-money of £47.8m earned by Lemaire-ridden horses in Japan between 2002 and 2014 eclipses that of his entire career in France, which we calculate at 2014 exchange rates to be £36.6m.

In the four full years to the end of 2018, he has added an astonishing £116.8m in Japan, pushing him well past Dettori and an inflation-adjusted Shoemaker to a lifetime total of £209,623,954.

3. Javier Castellano (1996-present)

Even in an era when North America’s long-held prize-money pre-eminence has been eclipsed by Japan, the vast majority of the top earners in the US have been active within the last 20 years, since the all-time list makes no allowance for inflation or fluctuations in currency values.

Castellano, 41, began riding in the US in 1997, just a year after starting his career in his native Venezuela.
The Eclipse Award winner was national money leader from 2013 to 2016 and has career earnings of $332,410,325, putting him more than $7m clear of 53-year-old Mike Smith in third.

2. John Velazquez (1990-present)

‘Johnny V’ is six years older than Castellano and has more than 5,000 career starts under his belt but, even allowing for that seniority, his lead over the rest of the all-time money list in America is impressive.

Velazquez has amassed $406,464,317 (£334.1m), and his career total of 6,089 wins from 33,350 rides puts him at number 17 on the historical list.

The sheer wealth involved in modern-day US and Japanese racing means that a straightforward top ten countdown of published earnings would be made up exclusively of jockeys from those two countries, all of whom would either be recently retired or still riding.

By way of comparison, Frankie Dettori’s estimated career earnings would only be good for number 23 on the US money list.

1. Yutaka Take (1987-present)

If you want an illustration of just how lucrative Japanese racing is, look no further than the career of that country’s equine all-time leading earner, Kitasan Black, who netted ¥1,876,843,000 (£14.5m) in a 20-race career.

It is therefore unsurprising that Yutaka Take has eclipsed all others in terms of career earning for the horses he has ridden in Japan, with his ¥83.8bn rounding out at approximately double what US money leader John Velazquez earned and a sterling equivalent of £649.8m.

Take’s enormous personal popularity has ensured plenty of earning potential outside of purse money, while his 1995 marriage to actress and singer Ryoko Sano makes them one of the great power couples in Japan.

A way to go to beat Gaius . . .

None of the top ten jockeys can touch Gaius Appuleius Diocles, the crack charioteer in second century Rome.
With an impressive 34 per cent strike-rate in his preferred four-horse chariot races, scholars have estimated his career earnings at around $15bn, with Professor Peter Struck describing Gaius as “the best-paid sportsman in history”. 

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