Much maligned or much loved, jockeys are always a topic of discussion for punters. While few have a true appreciation for just how hard a job it is, there’s no doubting the influence a good rider can have on the performance of a horse.
In Australia, we’re lucky to have some of the most talented and competitive jockeys in the world.
But who’s the best?
As the Spring Carnival kicks into gear, we asked our resident pro punters Mark Rhoden (New South Wales) and Trevor Lawson (Victoria) for their top five jockeys (in order) from their respective states’ ranks. Both Mark and Trev analyse and watch racing for a living, giving them a great insight into just who gets the job done.
So without further ado…
Trevor Lawson (Victoria)
5: Jye McNeil
Probably the surprise of the list, and admittedly I do have him a bit behind the other four, but I love to back McNeil. The horses he’s on don’t get quite as big a bonus from me as the other four riders here, but I think he’s really underrated. The market certainly seems to underestimate him.
A big plus is he can ride light without having to waste, so keeps a lot of his strength.
4: Mark Zahra
A real high-quality rider. Well-balanced and gives his horse every chance. They really seem to travel for him.
3: Damian Lane
Lane just keeps improving, month after month, year after year. He is advantaged by riding a lot for the number one stable and generally being on their top pick, but that also means there’s a fair bit of focus on what he does. And he doesn’t make many mistakes. Another well-balanced rider who gives them every chance.
2: Craig Williams
I’d say Williams probably isn’t as talented as the rest here, but he just works so hard and prepares so well that he more than makes up for it. He tends to ride to the advantage of the speed map, putting them where you want them.
1: Damien Oliver
It is hard to put them in order – I don’t have much between the top ones – but Ollie’s still the best for mine. When I like one and it maps positively, he invariably rides it the way you want. Like Williams, he tries to go forward when possible.
I’d also say that Oliver is the best distance rider of the modern era in Australia.
Mark Rhoden (New South Wales)
5: Tye Angland
Just a really capable jockey who rarely does much wrong. A lot of the top stables are more than happy to put him on, and he generally rewards them with a great performance. You know what you’re going to get most of the time with Tye.
4: Kerrin McEvoy
A very skilful jockey and really lovely to watch. He’s in tremendous form of late too. Puts them in the right spot nine times out of ten and has a great record in staying races, which seems to be one of his sweet spots.
3: Hugh Bowman
He’s been at the top of the tree for a long time. Seems to be a bit maligned these days, particularly when Winx is on the scene and people want to shy away from him, but I think that factor’s overplayed.
He probably is just a bit more careful when she’s around, but I think if you were going to go against him too much you’d cost yourself money. He’s a brilliant rider and has
been for a very long time.
2: Brenton Avdulla
Certainly not as stylish a rider as some of the others here, but what I love about him from a punting point-of-view is he’s always sticking them in the race. If he can take up a position he will, and of course he’s extremely strong in the finish. For the punter he’s a great jockey.
1: James McDonald
Number one for me, he’s just such a skilled rider. Has returned after his break and it’s like he was never away. His ability as a jockey and his race reading ability, as well as where he puts them in the race, means he just ticks all the boxes.
The ranks are very deep in Sydney, and there’s a few others you could slot in… it’s a pretty tough task. Tim Clark would easily fit into a lot of people’s top five lists, Jason Collett is very good on his day, Tommy Berry gets bagged a bit but if he’s up on the pace he generally gives them a chance. And of course Schofield, who at his best is as good as any of them.
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