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10 best Australian jockeys of all time – champion hoops of the Australian turf

Aaron Hamilton in Latest News 18 Aug 2015
  • George Moore holds the record for most Group 1 wins.
  • Robert Thompson holds the record for most wins in Australia - and still counting.
  • Damien Oliver and Jim Cassidy chasing George Moore's Group 1 record.
George Moore with Tulloch

Australia’s riding ranks have been littered with extremely talented riders since the country’s first official race meeting was held at Hyde Park, Sydney in 1810.

While some are regarded as the best for the amount of winners they have ridden, others are acknowledged for the quality of their wins.

There is certainly no shortage of talent in the current group of Australian jockeys, nor has there been in the past.

The following list takes a look at some of the best jockeys to have ridden in Australia, and while the list is open to conjecture, none can deny that each rider has earned their spot in the history books.

GEORGE MOORE (1923–2008)
Although there will be some speculation as to which riders deserve a place in the Top 10 Australian Jockeys of all Time, there can be no doubting George Moore sits firmly atop the list. The champion hoop started his career in 1939 in Brisbane and was soon sought out by Champion Sydney trainer Tommy Smith. Moore won 10 riding premierships and holds the Australian record for Group 1 wins having racked up a modest 119 wins at elite level. He had a strong association with legendary racehorse Tulloch and also plied his trade overseas where he won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Epsom Derby and the Ascot Gold Cup. Having accomplished more than any other rider in Australia, Moore turned his sights to training where brief stints in France and Australia led him to become a top trainer in Hong Kong. Between 1973 and 1985, Moore won the Hong Kong training premiership eleven times.

Arthur Breasley (nicknamed Scobie) was one of the most naturally balanced and talented jockeys to race anywhere in the world. Born in 1914 in Wagga Wagga, NSW, Breasley rode over 1000 winners in Australia including an unprecedented five Caulfield Cups before heading to Britain where he battled with champion British riders Sir Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott. He rode 2161 winners in Britain and claimed the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and two Epsom Derbies. Breasley is well known for using his whip sparingly as he preferred to ride hands and heels to get the best out of his mount. His riding style has inspired many of Australia’s best jockeys, and in honour of his riding skills, the top Victorian jockey of the season is awarded the Scobie Breasley Medal.

DAMIEN OLIVER (born June 22, 1972)
Oliver started his riding career in 1988 and brought up his first winner aboard Mr Gudbud at Bunbury, Western Australia. He soon travelled to Melbourne to continue his apprenticeship with Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman where he established himself as one of the country’s top riders. Having won 10 riding premierships, seven Scobie Breasley Medals and over 100 Group 1 wins, Oliver is still at the top of his game and looks destined to rival George Moore’s long-standing Group 1 winning record. Ironically, Oliver brought up his 100th Group 1 win when steering Fiorente to victory in Australia’s most famous race, the Melbourne Cup. In 2007, when winning the Golden Slipper aboard Forensics, Oliver became just the seventh jockey to have completed the ‘Grand Slam’ of Australian racing, winning the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Golden Slipper.

Selwood began riding in the early 1940’s in Brisbane before heading to Sydney to ride for trainer Maurice McCarten. His services were sought after by all the leading trainers including Tommy Smith who Selwood combined with to win the 1957 Caulfield Cup aboard Tulloch. He successfully rode in England, France and the USA and was rated the best jockey ever by top French trainer Alex Head. Choosing to bypass the 1962 Melbourne Spring Carnival and focus on winning the French Jockey’s Premiership, Selwood died in a race fall at Maison Lafitte in France at the age of 39. The winner of over 1500 races and 84 Group 1 races, Selwood is one of seven ‘Grand Slam’ winning jockeys in Australia. Some of his feature wins include two Melbourne Cups, three Caulfield Cups, two Cox Plates and a Golden Slipper win aboard Todman. 

JIM CASSIDY (born January 21, 1963)
The New Zealand-born Cassidy rose to prominence in Australia as a 20-year-old when piloting the aptly named Kiwi from last to first in the 1983 Melbourne Cup. ‘The Pumper’ as he is affectionately known, is one of just four jockeys to have achieved a century of Group 1 winners and brought up his 100th Group 1 win aboard Zoustar in the 2013 Coolmore Stud Stakes. Like Oliver, Cassidy has also achieved the ‘Grand Slam,’ winning the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Golden Slipper.

ROY HIGGINS (1938–2014)
With an estimated 2312 race wins to his name, Higgins earned the nickname ‘The Professor,’ and was widely regarded as one of the most gifted jockeys to ride in Australia. Despite struggling with his weight throughout his career, Higgins won nearly every feature race and claimed a record equalling 11 jockey’s premierships. With 108 Group 1 wins to his name, Higgins sits 2nd to George Moore, while holding a slender lead from Damien Oliver and Jim Cassidy. His major feature race wins include two Melbourne Cups, two Cox Plates, four VRC Derbies, five VRC Oaks, four Blue Diamond Stakes, two Sydney Cubs and six AJC Oaks.

DARREN BEADMAN (born November 17, 1965)
Beadman wasted no time showing his skills in the saddle and claimed the Sydney apprentice jockey’s title in his first season of riding during 1982-83. The following year, while still a teenager, Beadman piloted Inspired to victory in the 1984 Golden Slipper Stakes and would claim a second victory in the world’s richest juvenile race with Guineas in 1997. In 2007-08, Beadman set a record for the most Metropolitan wins in a season, racking up a massive 164 wins. Following his deeds in Sydney where he partnered champion racehorses such as Kington Rule, Saintly, Octagonal and Lonhro, Beadman moved to Hong Kong and rode over 250 winner before suffering a serious head injury at Sha Tin Racecourse. Beadman retired with 86 Group 1 wins.

HARRY WHITE (born 1944)
Inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2003, White is most famously known for his brilliant judgement in distance races, evident by his four Melbourne Cup wins aboard Think Big (twice), Hyperno and Arwon. While White was regarded as a superior distance rider, he managed many spring feature wins with three Newmarket Handicaps, three Oakleigh Plates and three Futurity Stakes among his 60 Group 1 wins.

THOMAS HALES (1847–1901)
An Inaugural Inductee to the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, Hales rode his first winner (Euclid) at the age of 13 and went on to establish himself as the most talented rider of the late 1800’s. In a career spanning from 1872 to 1894, Hales threw a leg over 1678 mounts and recorded 496 wins, 332 seconds and 195 thirds. He steered 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Briseis to victory in the Victorian Derby and VRC Oaks, while one of his greatest wins came aboard Grand Flaneur in the 1880 Melbourne Cup. Some of Hales other wins include: three Sydney Cups, six AJC Derbies, seven AJC St Legers, seven Victoria Derbies, ten VRC St Legers, and seven Australasian Champion Cups (Australian Cup). During the three days of the 1888 Melbourne Cup Carnival, Hales rode in 14 races and saluted with 11 winners.

Although RT hasn’t reached the dizzying heights of other city-based hoops, the quiet country jockey will go down in history as the most winningest jockey to ever grace the Australian turf. With well over 4000 wins to his credit, the evergreen hoop has shown no signs of slowing down and could reach the 5000 mark. 

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10 best Australian jockeys of all time – champion hoops of the Australian turf

Australia’s riding ranks have been littered with extremely talented riders since the country’s first official race meeting was held at Hyde Park, Sydney in 1810.

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