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: Ben Melham
Beautifully balanced jockey. Horses travel well for him. Good judge of pace, strong in a finish. He’s just as good whether he’s in front or making ground .
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 just 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: Tommy Berry
He’s maligned in some quarters, but maintains a consistently high metropolitan strike rate. You’d actually be in front blindly backing all his metro mounts over the last three months so he must be respected.
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: Nash Rawiller
Has returned to Sydney after several years in Hong Kong and picked up right where he left off. A strong, aggressive rider with a lot of experience and a proven big-race record, he can be backed with confidence.
1: James McDonald
Number one for me, he’s just such a skilled rider. He returned after a year’s break last year and it’s was 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. And of course Schofield, who at his best is as good as any of them.