One of the most beautiful things about horse racing is that there is always a story. The stories create the legends, and those are the narratives that are told over and over again throughout history. No other sport can create the moments that horse racing can, as it has the ability to make grown men cry whether or not they have backed the winner of the race.
Throughout history there have been some incredible stories play out in front of eyes on the grandest stages across the planet. According to TwinSpires, the Kentucky Derby is coming back for the yearly race in May 6th, so it’s the perfect timing to look at some inspiring racers.
So, who are three of the most inspiring horse racing jockeys that we have seen throughout the history of the great sport?
One of the most heartwarming stories that we have ever seen in horse racing began in 1979, as Bob Champion was diagnosed with cancer. Champion continued to ride despite doctors giving him just six months to live. He surpassed these beliefs by continuing to ride winners in the United Kingdom, before finally getting his shot in the Grand National in 1981.
His mount, Aldaniti, also recovered from a career-threatening injury to line up in the world famous race at Aintree. It was a story that even Hollywood movie directors could struggle to believe, but Aldaniti and Champion traveled supremely throughout the race, and took the advantage after the eleventh fence.
The combination held off the challenges from all angles on the long run to the line to win by four lengths. The moment was later voted among the Greatest Sporting Moments, and was immortalised in 1983 by the film Champions.
The Grand National always has a habit of writing its own story, and in 2021, that was the case once again. Rachel Blackmore was highly regarded as one of the best jumps jockeys in Ireland, but very few could see the trend of a female struggling in the grand race being bucked.
However, Blackmore has smashed so many glass ceilings throughout her career that it only seemed a matter of time before a female winner of the Grand National would become a common trend. In 2021, her date with destiny arrived, and her and Minella Times passed the post over seven lengths clear of the field.
Blackmore continued to break new ground in 2021, as she ended the Cheltenham Festival as the top jockey, while in 2022, she became the first female jockey to land the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup on board A Plus Tard. Aged just 33, this is still the start of her journey, and few would bet against her repeating both feats again in the future.
There are perhaps few more influential jockeys in global horse racing than Steve Cauthen. The American quickly became one of the standout jockeys in North America, winning his first race just a week after making his debut in the saddle. His success would continue in 1978, as he became the youngest ever jockey to win the U.S. Triple Crown onboard Affirmed.
However, after dominating in North America, he decided to make the career-defining move to Europe to take over from the legendary Lester Piggott. That bold move led to immediate success, as he was named Champion Jockey on three occasions, and he would win ten English Classics.
His first win came in the 1985 Derby, becoming the first jockey to ever win Classics in both the U.S. and UK. Not content with cracking England and the U.S., he would later claim Classic success in the French Derby and the Irish Derby, before winning the Italian Derby with Hailsham in 1991.