The victories of elite thoroughbreds we know today are partly because of their human partners — the jockeys. Horses and jockeys are valuable athletes who contribute equally to a pair’s success on the track. When paired with a seasoned rider, even the most inexperienced horse can achieve promising results.
In a horse racing event as big as the Breeders’ Cup, jockeys with the biggest potential will compete against each other. These riders have mounted the best of the best horses of many generations. To know more about the most decorated jockeys in the history of the Breeders’ Cup, here’s a list we have prepared for you.
Irad Ortiz Jr.
If you’re looking for the best Breeders Cup Classic, Breeders’ Cup Turf, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Breeders Cup 2023 Mile Contenders, you might as well look at top-performing jockeys like Irad Ortiz Jr.
This 31-year-old Puerto Rican jockey won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Additionally, he won other Breeders’ Cup races like Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare, Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Breeders’ Cup Turf, and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Last year, he won multiple major stakes like the Woodward Stakes, New York Stakes, Shoemaker Mile Stakes, and Hollywood Gold Cup Stakes.
He was also a two-time Belmont Stakes champion (2016 and 2022). Ortiz was a 4-time recipient of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey (2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022) and Shoemaker Award in the same racing years.
Mike E. Smith
American jockey Mike E. Smith won the Breeders’ Cup Classic four times. Among the names on this list, he has been to the most number of Breeders’ Cup races. The 58-year-old retired jockey also participated and won significant stakes like the Triple Crown Series 2018.
Some notable racing awards that Smith has received were the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, Bill Shoemaker Award, Big Sport of Turfdom Award, George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, and Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey, among many others. In addition, Smith was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2003.
Born in Colorado, United States, Pat Day became one of the winningest jockeys in the history of the Breeders’ Cup, boasting four Classic wins. Besides Breeders’ Cup Classic, Day also won three Breeders’ Cup Distaff (1986, 1991, 2001), two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (1994, 1997), two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (1987, 1994), and Breeders’ Cup Turf (1987).
Moreover, Day competed and won international races like the 1991 and 2002 Woodbine Mile, the 1991 and 1995 Canadian International Stakes, and the 1991 Canadian Triple Crown. He was also awarded four-time Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey (1984, 1986, 1987, 1991) and was named U.S. Champion Jockey by wins six times (1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1991). Day was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1991.
Born in Dallas, Texas, broadcaster Jerry Bailey has become one of the most celebrated jockeys of his time. The 66-year-old NBC sports thoroughbred racing analyst is now a retired jockey. Bailey won the Breeders’ Cup Classic five times in the years 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 2005.
He also won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies two times (19995 and 1999), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile three times (1996, 1998, and 2000), Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf two times (1999 and 2000), Breeders’ Cup Sprint two times (2001 and 2002), and Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2003.
In addition, Bailey has secured other major racing wins like the New York Handicap Triple, Hollywood Gold Cup, Del Mar Futurity, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Oaks, and the Triple Crown Series (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes).
He was also awarded notable emirates like the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey seven times, the Big Sport of Turfdom Award, the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, and the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, among many others under his belt. Owing to his valuable achievements as a jockey, Bailey was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.
Chris McCarron is a retired American jockey who has a long history of riding elite thoroughbreds in the most popular horse racing events in the whole world. McCarron won the Breeders’ Cup Classic five times (1988, 1989, 1996, 2000, and 2001). In addition, he won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (1992), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (1992), and Breeders’ Cup Turf (1995).
The 68-year-old champion jockey from Boston, Massachusetts, has secured 7,141 career wins. He also participated in international stakes and won the 1987 Canadian International Stakes and the 1988 Japan Cup.
In North America, he has secured victories in major stakes like the races Triple Crown Series on different occasions, Pacific Classic Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, Hollywood Gold Cup, San Clemente Handicap, Bing Crosby Handicap, and Woodward Stakes, among many others. McCarron was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 1989.
Every year, 14 horses participate in each race of the Breeder’s Cup except for the Dirt Mile, which has 12 maximum contenders. This means that countless jockeys have competed in the Breeders’ Cup, but only a few became household names in the American horseracing industry. The ones we have included in the list have participated in other major stakes across the US and internationally, proving their unparalleled skills in mounting elite thoroughbreds.