Since World War II, which jockeys have held the world record for most winners?
In the United Kingdom, the most successful jockey of all time was Sir Gordon Richards, who retired in 1954 with 4,870 winners to his name. Indeed, Richards set a world record, but it lasted only until 1956, when broken by fellow Englishman John ‘Johnny’ Longden. Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, Longden emigrated to Canada with his family 1912 and subsequently moved to California to pursue a career as a jockey. Based at Santa Anita Park, Longden retired from race riding in 1966 with 6,032 victories, thereby setting a new world record for career wins.
Longden’s record stood until 1970, when it was broken by Texan-born Willie ‘Bill’ Shoemaker. Indeed, even though Shoemaker rode his last winner in 1990, taking his career total to 8,833,
he would continue to hold the world record for most wins until 1999. At that point, Shoemaker ceded the all-time record to another West Coast jockey, Panamanian-born Laffit Pincay Jr., who had been riding in the United States since 1966.
Like Shoemaker, Pincay Jr. continued to hold the record for most career winners until his retirement, at the age of 56, in 2003, by which time his tally stood at 9,530. In fact, Pincay Jr. would not be surpassed until Canadian-born Russell Baze chalked up win number 9,531, courtesy of Butterfly Belle at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, California in December, 2006. Thereafter, Baze frequently traded the all-time record with Brazilian-born Jorge Ricardo, but continued riding until June, 2016, when he brought his stellar, 42-year career to end. At the time of his retirement, at the age of 57, he had ridden 12,844 winners and wrested back the record from his South American rival.
Remarkably, Ricardo, who turned 60 in September, 2021, is still active as a jockey. He equalled Baze’s record at Hipodromo da Gavea, in his native Rio de Janeiro, in February, 2018, before breaking it at Hipodromo de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, Argentina the following day. At the last count, ‘Ricardinho’, as he is known to his fans, had ridden 13,122 winners and, after 45 years in the saddle set a record that will surely never be beaten by anyone other than himself. He once said, ‘I keep riding because it is my life. Honestly, I can’t live without it.’