Who Are the Best Irish Jockeys for Racing Punters?

In last week’s article, I looked at the top-performing trainers in Irish racing. This week, I am moving on to the best jockeys.

Once again, those of you who focus on British racing may not necessarily have heard of these riders. You are doubtless used to the likes of Silvestre De Sousa, Frankie Dettori, Richard Johnson and William Buick.


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Of course, jockeys such as Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy are legends on both sides of the Irish Sea, but alas, the two great riders have now gone out to stud!

Although their absence leaves a significant gap in Irish racing, it does allow the newer generation to take the spotlight. I will divide the article into Flat and National Hunt racing, and all data comes from the beginning of 2015 unless otherwise stated.

Flat Jockeys

Donnacha O’Brien is the son of legendary trainer, Aiden, but has forged a solid reputation as a jockey in his own right. Donnacha was the 2018 champion Flat jockey in Ireland, earning over €3.4 million in prize money. Last week, we discovered that his partnership with his father isn’t good news for the punter. What about his overall record since 2015?

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)A/E
1,11822520.13%-10.16%0.89

Despite a very decent strike rate of 20% following O’Brien, the jockey is not fruitful for punters with a loss of over 10%. He does better when riding non-handicap favourites with a 46%-win rate, but the loss is still slightly over 2%.

Colin Keane is leading the 2019 championship at the time of writing. However, he has only won 13.97% of his races for a loss of 7.82%.

Shane Foley does a bit better for the punter, despite a win rate of just 9.92%. Following all of his rides since 2015 would result in a Betfair loss of 2.92%. This loss falls to just 0.42% when you follow Foley on Handicap races only, but the win rate is very low at 9.83%.

To be fair to Foley, only 10% of his rides are favourites which explains the single digit win rate. Interestingly, although he only wins 8.3% of races with 11-20 runners, you would turn a profit of 2.3% backing all of his rides.

A feature of Irish Flat racing is the low win rate of the best jockeys. For example, William Lee only wins 10.8% of his races, Oisin Orr wins 7.81% of the time and Chris Hayes only wins 8.93% of his races. However, backing all of Hayes’ rides would earn you a profit of 4.6%.

However, if you really want to profit on Hayes, back his non-handicap rides only. He wins just 10% of the time, but the Betfair profit is 18%. Perhaps surprisingly, he has been profitable in three of the last five years and is enjoying a very fruitful 2019 to date with a 17% win-rate and a profit of 45%.

Overall, however, it isn’t easy to find a reliable jockey in Irish racing. The win rate tends to hover in the 10% range for a significant proportion of riders, a sure sign of the level of competitiveness.

Ryan Moore is a notable exception. He has a strike rate of almost 32% although following him would result in a loss of 2%. However, backing all of his rides in 2018 and 2019 to date would yield profits of 27% and 10% respectively. Over half of his rides have been on the clear race favourite which helps explain his high win rate.

National Hunt Jockeys

The now retired Ruby Walsh was the biggest name in Irish racing for several years (McCoy rarely raced in Ireland) although the last time he topped the Jockey Championship was in the 2016/17 season.

Paul Townend has been a major figure for several years; and won the Championship last season. He is also top of the money table in 2019/20, although there is a LONG way to go. Here is how he fares from a punter’s point of view:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)A/E
1,65932219.41%1.96%0.94

Without the need to filter any further, you can see that Townend is a good option for punters with a profit of almost 2% since 2015. Once you switch to non-handicap races only, his win rate climbs to 25%, while the profit rises to 8%.

To get the very best of Townend; however, you need to focus on non-handicap Hurdle races where he seems to excel. His win rate remains at 25%, but his ROI climbs to 15%. The A/E figure also rises to 0.98. Alas, it isn’t consistent profit with only two profitable years in five. He might be top of the Jockey’s Championship this season, but the A/E figure is 0.81. This means his win rate is 19% lower than what is expected.

Davy Russell is the other huge name in Irish National Hunt racing. Here is his record since 2015:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (Betfair)A/E
1,83633017.97%-1.75%0.87

His win rate is far lower than Townend and following all of his mounts would result in a loss of almost 2%. Unlike his rival, Russell fares well in handicap races. His win rate falls to just 16.2% but the ROI skyrockets to 15%. Clearly, he rides his share of big priced winners.

It is best to focus on handicap Chase races with Russell. He wins 17.45% of such races for a profit of almost 42%. The A/E figure of 1.13 means he wins far more often than expected. Following him in such races has been profitable in three of the last five years.

2019 has been fantastic so far with 6 wins from 18 rides at the time of writing, and a profit of 350%. This is, of course, an anomaly, and he only rides 60-70 times a season in these races, but perhaps they are worth waiting for?

Rachel Blackmore is another well-known name on the Irish circuit. However, her win rate is just 10.4% with a loss of 5.46%. What you need to focus on here is her record when riding Henry De Bromhead trained horses. This combination has won 20.46% of their races for a profit of over 50%! The A/E figure of 1.1 is the icing on the cake.

Furthermore, it is a fledgling partnership which only formed in 2018, so it is exciting to see if the dynamic duo continues in the same vein. 2019 has not gone as well as in 2018, but you would just see a profit of 32%.

Jack Kennedy is the final jockey I will look at today. He has finished no lower than seventh in the last four Irish Jockey Championships. Since 2015, he has won just 14.65% of his races for a loss of 5.31%. In non-handicap races, his win rate rises to 17.27% while the overall loss falls to 2.5%.

It is handicap Chase events where Kennedy appears to shine at first glance. His win rate is almost 19%, while the ROI is a handsome profit of 44.6% on Betfair. Alas, this profit is based almost entirely on an outstanding 2017 when backing his horses would have yielded a profit of 269%. He has recorded heavy losses in 2018 and 2019 to date and is best avoided in handicap Chase races.

Final Thoughts on Irish Jockeys

Irish racing is notoriously hard to call where unexpected results are the norm. Donnacha O’Brien may be a top jockey on the Flat, but he does no favours for bettors. Chris Hayes in non-handicap races is worth a look, but his low win rate means long losing streaks are inevitable.

As far as National Hunt racing is concerned, Paul Townend does well in non-handicap Hurdles, while Davy Russell is best for handicap Chase races. Finally, keep a close eye on the partnership between Rachel Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead.