They call it the Sport of Kings and certainly the prizes on offer in horse racing are enough to make many a royal salivate – just see how many of the world’s top-hatted royal families are keen participants. There is no doubt horse racing can be a lucrative business to be in, especially at the top end where the best trainers and riders have the potential to earn vast sums of money.
As we run down to September there are still a number of high profile races on the international calendar to look forward to, both here in the States and abroad. September for example sees the focus turn to France as Longchamp in Paris hosts the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and who can forget last year’s sensational race, which The Guardian said ‘confounded expectations from start to finish’, as a German trained 80/1 outsider stormed to an unlikely victory.
Closer to home of course we have the Breeders Cup in November to look forward to, this year being held in Keenland, Kentucky with Flightline, ridden by Flavien Prat an early favorite for the Classic in the latest Coral horse racing odds and for good reason. The French born jockey who moved to the US in 2015 has already crossed the line first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby and the 2021 Preakness Stakes and four-year-old Flightline has won all four of his races so far with Prat in the saddle.
Despite Prat’s rising ascendency he remains some distance behind the real big earners in horse racing so let’s have a look at the top five earners in the saddle.
CREDIT Unknown (AP WirePhoto), Bill Shoemaker, 1965 A, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons
Legend has it when Shoemaker was born he was so small he was put in a shoebox and placed in the oven to keep warm. A humble beginning for a man who would go on to ride almost 9,000 winners at a success rate of 22%. From winning the Kentucky Derby for the first time in 1955 he would go on to amass an incredible number of wins culminating in the Breeders Cup Classic in 1987 when he was 56 years old! Allowing for inflation it is estimated Shoemaker earned around $237 million in the saddle.
CREDIT Cake6, Christophe-Lemaire20120108, CC BY-SA 3.0
Japan is the most lucrative market in racing these days and Lemaire is right at the heart of it. The five-time Japan Racing Association Leading Jockey has ridden over 2,200 winners with more than 1,500 in Japan. He is not just successful in Japan and France – he has won the Melbourne Cup in Australia, the 1,000 and the 2,000 Guineas in the UK, the Hong Kong Cup as well as the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to see him accrue more than $247 million.
CREDIT Cake6, Javier-Castellano20101114, CC BY-SA 3.0
Venezuelan born Castellano topped the National Earnings List for four straight years from 2013, he was runner up on either side of that run, a hot streak that goes a long way to explaining the $332 million career earnings to date. As well as a number of American Classics, Castellano has also won the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the Canadian International Stakes.
CREDIT Maryland GovPics, John Velazquez 2016 Pimlico, CC BY 2.0
Born in Puerto Rico in 1971, has been a colossus in the American racing scene for a couple of decades now. Four Kentucky Derby wins, two Belmont Stakes, countless first place finishes at the Breeders Cup and success overseas including Canada and Dubai are just some of his 6,000 successes and explain the $406 million worth of winnings he has picked up in his career!
CREDIT Ogiyoshisan, Yutaka Take 2012, CC BY-SA 2.0
If you think Valezquez has done well, wait till you meet Japanese jockey Yutaka Take. In his first year racing he chalked up 69 wins! He was the youngest ever jockey to win 100 races in his country. With the legendary Deep Impact the pair won seven Grade 1 races while Yutaka has also won races in Australia, Hong Kong and the UAE. He is married to a famous Japanese singer/actress and is thought to have earned a cool $768 million, more than Castellano and Valezquez combined(!) since those first races 35 years ago!
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