The Grand National is renowned as the pinnacle of horse racing challenges, and rightly so. It’s one of the toughest races on the planet. Yet, it’s the names of the noble steeds that linger longest in the memories of the spectators.
Often times this is because of a one-time winner with an eye-catching name like Comply Or Die. But then also, it is because the horse is a bona fide star, with Red Rum being the most notable in that respect.
This is a list of the top Grand National jockeys, amongst other statistics.
Legendary Jockeys of The Grand National
Tom Olliver is a very interesting past jockey in the National. Born in 1812, Tom raced in the very first Grand National and went on to ride in 19 races. He amazingly won three and was runner-up in three more.
His outstanding record in 19 races stood for an amazing length of time. Now it is Richard Johnson that holds the record, having ridden in the race 21 times.
What also makes Tom Olliver very interesting is that he spent a considerable amount of time partying and in the company of women. His notoriety was compounded by a spell served within a debtors’ prison.
While it is relatively easy to find considerable amounts of internet information on Tom Olliver, George Steven is relatively unheralded, which is greatly surprising considering his resume in the Grand National.
George Stevens still holds the jockey record by winning five Nationals and winning two of them back to back. The last race he won came in 1870 when he rode The Colonel to success at Aintree in 1870.
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Tragically, George Stevens passed away the following year in a freak accident at the young age of just 37. Who knows how many more races he could have won?
National jockeys are most commonly born within the British Isles, yet Bruce Hobbs hailed all the way from Long Island, New York. He is noted in the history books because he was the youngest winner in National folklore, racing to victory at just 17 years of age in 1938.
At the end of that year, he had achieved an unthinkable thirty-five wins. Sadly his career came to a crushing end when he broke his spine in a fall later in the year following his National win.
Fortunately for Bruce Hobbs, he recovered to the extent that he could sit in a saddle again.
Brian Fletcher achieved major recognition when he won his first National in 1968, riding Red Alligator. However, he would go later go on to ride the legendary Red Rum, in turn building his legend further still.
Brian Fletcher is the jockey that rode Red Rum to back-to-back victories in 1973 and 1974. However, no love was lost between Fletcher and the trainer of Red Rum. In fact, they disliked each other deeply, so even though he had ridden back-to-back victories.
Ginger McCain famously sacked him in 1975, and he never rode Red Rum again.
Moving on to the modern era, Ruby Walsh is the most successful jockey of recent times. The Irish-born rider won his first Grand National in 2000 and in his first outing, too. Five years later, he switched from Papillon to riding Hedgehunter to victory in 2005.
There’s no doubt that Ruby Walsh is right up there with the best jockeys in history. His outstanding career has seen him win twice, come second once, third once and fourth twice. That makes him a true Legend of Aintree.
Partnered with the horse ‘Don’t Push It’, McCoy achieved his long-awaited victory in the Grand National in 2010. This win was a milestone not only for McCoy but also for all professional jockeys, as he became the first jockey to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award later that year.
In 2021, Blackmore made history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National, riding Minella Times to victory. This landmark achievement was not just a personal triumph but a breakthrough moment for women in the sport.
Most Wins: Red Rum is the only horse to have won three times, a record that the great Tiger Roll looked set to match in 2020 before the race was cancelled. Only the very best come out on top at the Grand National.
Fastest Winning Time: Mr. Frisk, ridden by Marcus Armytage in 1990, holds the record for the fastest winning time, completing the course in just 8 minutes and 47.8 seconds.
Youngest Winning Jockey: Bruce Hobbs, who won the race in 1938, was just 17 years old, making him the youngest winning jockey.
Most Successful Trainer: George Dockeray, Fred Rimell, and Ginger McCain share the record for the most wins as a trainer, each with four victories.
Least Horses Finished: In 1928, only two out of 42 horses managed to complete the race.
Most Horses in a Race: The 1929 Grand National holds the record for the most runners with 66 horses.
Longest Race Course: At 4 miles 514 yards, the Grand National has the longest race course in the United Kingdom.
Grand National Jockey FAQs
Q1: What are the key traits of a winning Grand National jockey? The key traits include nerves of steel, quick decision-making abilities, strategic understanding, resilience, physical conditioning, mental toughness, deep connection with the horse, and excellent horse-handling skills.
Q2: How important is the jockey’s connection with their horse? The jockey’s connection with their horse is crucial. The better a jockey understands their horse’s capabilities and personality, the more effectively they can guide them to victory.
Q3: How do jockeys prepare for the Grand National? Preparation involves rigorous physical and mental conditioning, strategic training, and building a deep connection with their horse.
Q4: How does a winning jockey handle adversity during a race? A winning jockey demonstrates resilience and adaptability, making quick, strategic decisions to overcome any challenges that arise.
Q5: What is the role of strategy in the Grand National? Strategy is pivotal, helping jockeys decide when to conserve energy, when to make a move, and how to navigate the field effectively.
Q6: How does mental toughness factor into a jockey’s success? Mental toughness helps jockeys handle the pressures and high stakes of the race, enabling them to stay focused and make clear decisions under intense conditions.
The traits of a winning Grand National jockey go beyond physical prowess. A blend of nerve, strategy, resilience, and connection with the horse, coupled with rigorous training and an indomitable spirit, are what carry these jockeys to victory. As we’ve seen, triumph in this challenging race isn’t a matter of chance—it’s a testament to the unique characteristics and preparation of the jockey.