Richards is in a class of his own; A CENTURY OF RACING - 50 GREATEST FLAT JOCKEYS.
Even in the video age there are widely differing views about the effectiveness of the leading jockeys, and it is impossible to make an objective comparison between them and the top riders from early in the century, of whom only a fragmentary record exists on film.
John Hislop, a notable theoretician of riding technique, was of the firm opinion that the 1930s were the golden age of Flat-race jockeyship in Britain. At the start of that decade Gordon Richards, Charlie Smirke, Charlie Elliott, Harry Wragg, Brownie Carslake and Michael Beary were in their prime, and Steve Donoghue and Joe Childs were still hard to beat.
That view is endorsed by the following classification, compiled by Tony Morris and John Randall, in which those eight titans all rank among the 13 best Flat jockeys of the 20th century. All British and Irish jockeys were considered for this list, and so were foreign jockeys, provided they were based here for at least five years.
Other jockeys may have possessed more flair and a better big-race temperament, but for sheer sustained excellence, day in, day out over many years, Gordon Richards (1904-86) is in a class of his own.
Statistically there is no doubt about his claims to being the greatest jockey of the century. The son of a Shropshire coal-miner, he set records by becoming champion jockey 26 times between 1925 and 1953 and winning 4,870 races in Britain (1921-54), including 269 in one season (1947) and 12 in succession (in 1933).
During his associations with Fred Darling and Noel Murless he won the fillies' Triple Crown on Sun Chariot, the 2,000 Guineas by a record margin on Tudor Minstrel, and many top sprints on Abernant. In Coronation week 1953 he became the only jockey ever to receive a knighthood and, at his 28th and final attempt, won the Derby on Pinza.
He bestrode the sport like a colossus for more than 20 years and, by his skill, integrity, consistency and longevity in the saddle, and his attractive personality, he brought more credit to his profession than any
other jockey has ever
John Hislop wrote: "I have seen Richards win on horses which no other jockey could have got home first; and he had the most extraordinary knack of making an apparently beaten horse run on. Though he flourished his whip extravagantly, he seldom hit a horse and never hard . . .
"He had the extraordinary art of keeping horses on a dead-straight line, riding them on a completely loose rein. This was achieved by the combination of neck-reining, the terrific strength in his legs and correct use of them as a means of guidance and propulsion."
(b 1935) An uncommunicative and solitary member of a notable racing dynasty, Lester Keith Piggott was a reckless boy wonder who matured into a jockey with a matchless big-race temperament, and whose record tally of 30 Classics included an unprecedented nine Derbys. He won 4,493 Flat races in Britain (1948-94) plus 20 over hurdles, and was champion 11 times.
During his long associations with Noel Murless and Vincent O'Brien he rode some of the best post-war champions, notably Crepello, Petite Etoile, Sir Ivor, Triple Crown hero Nijinsky and dual Arc winner Alleged, and proved the supreme master of both extreme finesse and brute force.
Piggott exercised iron self-discipline to keep his body far below its natural weight, and his friend Peter O'Sullevan wrote in his memoirs: "The austere regime further isolated him from his fellow men, promoted irritability and fostered the gunfighter's delusion of being above the law."
(1881-1916) America's greatest gift to the British Turf, Connecticut-born Daniel Aloysius Maher was already a leading jockey when joining the US invasion of European racing in 1900. He triumphed in nine Classics, including the Derby on Rock Sand (1903), Cicero (1905) and Spearmint (1906), won twice on Pretty Polly, and rode Bayardo to 15 consecutive victories in 1909-10 including the St Leger and Ascot Gold Cup.
He was champion jockey twice - in 1908, as an American, and in 1913, by which time he had taken out British citizenship. He was forced to retire at the end of that season, with his health undermined by wasting, and he died of tuberculosis aged only 35.
More than half a century later, Sir Jack Jarvis was still adamant that Maher was the best jockey he had ever seen.
(1884-1945) Born in Lancashire, Steve Donoghue was champion jockey in Ireland before returning to Britain, where he was champion 10 consecutive times (1914-23).
The only jockey to ride two Triple Crown winners (Pommern 1915, Gay Crusader 1917), he was supreme at Epsom and achieved a unique Derby hat-trick on Humorist, Captain Cuttle and Papyrus (1921-23). He picked up his sixth Derby on Manna in 1925 and also rode The Tetrarch and Brown Jack.
Though his charm, generosity and warm-hearted nature made him universally popular, Donoghue was also gullible, improvident and irresponsible. But on horseback his perfect hands made him a natural, and his weighing-room colleague Brownie Carslake once said: "Stephen can find out more about what is left in his horse with his little finger than most men with their legs and whip."
(1906-93) The greatest jockey never to be champion, Charlie Smirke was the best big-race rider during the golden age of British Flat jockeyship.
Despite suffering from chronic weight problems and losing 10 years of his career because of a (probably unjust) warning-off and the war, he won four Derbys - on his best mount Windsor Lad (1934), Mahmoud (1936), Tulyar (1952) and, at the age of 51, Hard Ridden (1958). Bahram (1935 St Leger) also contributed towards his 11 Classic victories.
The volatile and exasperating Smirke possessed aggressive Cockney self-confidence and, in those pre-camera patrol days, was supreme in the art of gamesmanship, but above all he was ice-cool on the big occasion.
(1904-79) Edward Charles Elliott was still apprenticed to Jack Jarvis when champion jockey in 1923 (jointly with Steve Donoghue) and 1924. He was a natural and Jarvis said: "I don't think he knew what he was doing half the time, but as it was the right thing I never enquired what went on in his young head."
Though he spent much of his long career riding for Marcel Boussac in France, he still won 14 Classics, notably the Derby on Call Boy (1927), Bois Roussel (1938) and Nimbus (1949).
Elliott also won the Grand Prix de Paris on Pharis, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Corrida (twice) and Caracalla, and the inaugural King George on Supreme Court. His failings were out of the saddle - gambling and lack of business sense.
(1902-85) Sheffield-born Harry Wragg was a superb judge of pace, and his come-from-behind style earned him the nickname 'the Head Waiter'. In an era when front-running tactics were deemed essential in the Derby, he came late to triumph on Felstead in 1928, and he numbered two more Derbys on Blenheim (1930) and Watling Street (1942) among his 13 Classic victories. His four Oaks winners included Rockfel (1938).
In 1941, with Gordon Richards injured, he was champion jockey for the only time, and rode Sun Chariot and Big Game as juveniles. On his retirement in 1946 he had won a total of 1,774 races.
Wragg became the only great Flat jockey of the century to be a great trainer as well, and in both roles he brought rare intelligence to bear on his profession. According to Quintin Gilbey: "A suitable epitaph to him would be, 'He used his loaf'."
(b 1960) The 'Kentucky Kid' was a boy prodigy in America, where he was champion jockey and Sportsman of the Year in 1977, and won the Triple Crown on Affirmed the following season. That colt's trainer, Laz Barrera, joked: "Sometimes he makes
me believe in reincarnation. Maybe he had another life where he was a leading rider for 50 years."
After moving to Britain in 1979 Cauthen took a while to adapt, but for several years until his retirement in 1992 he was the best practitioner of his craft and was champion three times.
He possessed outstanding judgement of pace and led all the way on both his Derby winners, Slip Anchor (1985) and Reference Point (1987). His 10 British Classic victories also included the fillies' Triple Crown on Oh So Sharp (1985).
(1893-1940) The most precocious talent ever seen on a British racecourse, Frank Wootton was born in Sydney in December 1893. His father, trainer Dick Wootton, moved the family from Australia to South Africa and then England, and he became Britain's youngest-ever champion jockey at the age of 15 in 1909. That was the first of four consecutive championships for the boy wonder.
His best mount was Swynford, the 1910 St Leger victor, but increasing weight forced him to stop riding on the Flat in 1913, when he was still only 19, though he later rode over hurdles and was runner-up for the National Hunt title in 1921. His younger brother, Stanley Wootton, was the most successful apprentice tutor of the century.
(b 1914) Born at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Arthur 'Scobie' Breasley was champion in Victoria three times and was already 35 when moving to Britain in 1950.
On his retirement in 1968 he had won 2,161 races in his adopted land and been champion four times between 1957 and 1963, with a peak score of 179 in 1962. The best horse he rode was Ballymoss, winner of the King George and Arc in 1958, and he won the Derby on Santa Claus (1964) and Charlottown (1966).
A quiet, undemonstrative man, Breasley possessed judgement of pace which made him supreme at riding a waiting race and timing his run to perfection, though his reluctance to leave the rails cost him some races. Roger Mortimer wrote: "In the course of the season he gives more pleasure to connoisseurs of race riding than any of his contemporaries."
11 Joe Childs (1884-1958), renowned for riding waiting races, won 15 Classics, including the Derby on Fifinella, Triple Crown victor Gainsborough and Coronach.
12Brownie Carslake (1886-1941), an exceptionally powerful Australian, won seven Classics, including the 2,000 Guineas on Tetratema.
13 Michael Beary (1896-1956), an improvident Irishman, won four Classics, notably the Derby on Mid-day Sun and the St Leger on Trigo.
14 Frank Bullock (1885-1946), an Australian, won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Comrade and Ksar, and the Oaks on Saucy Sue.
15 Pat Eddery (b 1952), champion 11 times, ranks third to Richards and Piggott among the winningmost jockeys in Britain and has won 14 Classics, including the Derby on Grundy, Golden Fleece and Quest For Fame.
16 Manny Mercer (1928-59), recognised as superior to his younger brother Joe, won two Classics and was killed in a fall at Ascot.
17 Walter Swinburn (b 1961), a big-race specialist, has won eight Classics including the Derby on Shergar, Shahrastani and Lammtarra.
18 Doug Smith (1917-89) was champion five times between 1954 and 1959, and numbered Alycidon and Petite Etoile among his best
19 Willie Carson (b 1942) was champion five times between 1972 and 1983, and won 17 Classics, including the Derby on Troy, Henbit, Nashwan and Erhaab.
20 Freddie Fox (1887-1945) was champion in 1930, beating Gordon Richards by one, and won the Derby on Cameronian and Bahram.
21 Bill Williamson (1922-79) was an Australian who beat Lester Piggott on Vaguely Noble and Levmoss in consecutive runnings of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
22 Mick Kinane (b 1959), the best Flat jockey ever to be based in Ireland, has won the Derby on Commander In Chief.
23 Eph Smith (1915-72), elder brother of Doug Smith, won the Derby on Blue Peter and the King George on the Queen's Aureole.
24 Joe Mercer (b 1934), the supreme stylist, was champion in 1979 and rode Brigadier Gerard in all his
25 Billy Nevett (1906-92), the perennial Cock of the North, won the Derby on Owen Tudor, Ocean Swell and Dante.
26 Walter Griggs (1889-1933) won three Classics, including the St Leger on Your Majesty and Black Jester.
27 Tommy Weston (1902-81) rode for Lord Derby and won 11 Classics, notably the Derby on Sansovino and Hyperion.
28 Billy Higgs (1880-1958) was champion in 1906 and 1907, and won the Ascot Gold Cup on Willonyx.
29 Jimmy Lindley (b 1935) won the King George on Aggressor and gained all his three Classic victories by a short head.
30 Otto Madden (1872-1942) won five Classics and was champion four times between 1898 and 1904.
31 Sandy Barclay (b 1948) was a boy wonder who won the King George on Royal Palace.
32 Willie Lane (1883-1920) was champion in 1902 and won the fillies' Triple Crown on Pretty Polly.
33 Frankie Dettori (b 1970), darling of the public since his unique seven-timer at Ascot in 1996, was champion in 1994 and 1995.
34 Skeets Martin (1875-1944) was an American who
won the Derby on Ard
35 Fred Rickaby jr (1894-1918), father of Bill Rickaby, won five Classics, including the 1,000 Guineas four times.
36 Greville Starkey (b 1939) won five Classics, including the Derby on Shirley Heights and the 2,000 Guineas on Dancing Brave.
37 Joe Canty (1892-1971) was the best jockey in Ireland between the wars.
38 Bobby Jones (1905-69) won five Classics, including the 2,000 Guineas on Orwell.
39 Elijah Wheatley (1886-
1951) was champion jockey in 1905 when still an apprentice.
40 Herbert Jones (1881-
1951) won eight
Classics, including the Triple Crown on Diamond Jubilee
41 Brian Taylor (1939-84) won the Derby on Snow Knight and was killed in a fall in Hong Kong.
42 Dick Perryman (1903-76) won three Classics as a jockey and repeated the feat as a trainer.
43 Geoff Lewis (b 1935) won five Classics and rode Mill Reef in all his races.
44 Henri Jelliss (1892-1971), a Belgian, won three Classics, including the Oaks on Quashed.
45 Harry Carr (1916-85) won six Classics, including the fillies' Triple Crown on Meld and the Derby on Parthia.
46 Morny Wing (1897-1965) was a Yorkshireman who became champion jockey in Ireland.
47 Bill Rickaby (1917-87) won three Classics and took the Eclipse on Busted.
48 Frankie Durr (b 1925)
won the 2,000
Guineas and St Leger twice each.
49Edgar Britt (b 1913), an Australian, won seven Classics, including the St Leger twice.
50 Kieren Fallon (b 1965) has been champion for the last two years.