When it comes to the big race meetings we all have or had our favourite jockeys. Sit at any track and it won’t be long before someone tells you how they landed their biggest bet ever thanks to a Johnny Murtagh treble, a George Duffield double, or a Lester Piggott four timer for the more mature fan (or their parents), with Franke Dettori’s Magnificent Seven at Ascot in September 1996, a spectacular occasion which cost the bookie a small fortune.
Naturally we all have our favourites even today, but with Royal Ascot just around the corner and with it of course our Royal Ascot Tips, how would you have got on over the last ten years if you simply followed them blindly at the best flat race meeting on the planet? Let’s have a look one by one and see whether we would be richer – or poorer?
Frankie Dettori – everyone’s favourite Italian rides Ascot as well as anyone but if you backed all his horses to a £1 stake over the years you would be the first name on many a punters’ list but although not the worst record out there, after 223 rides and 18 winners for an 8% strike rate, you would be £78.38 the poorer to Starting Price. He did (perhaps surprisingly) show a smaller loss in handicaps with 3 winners from 64 rides (5%) and -£23.75, but that is still not a profit and a worry for his fans
Last year we saw Jim Crowley crowned Champion jockey and he seems sure to prove popular at Royal Ascot again this season, but has he made a profit in the past? Obviously he is now retained by powerful owner Hamdan Al Maktoum so his future may well be even brighter, but only time will tell on that one. So far (and remember, Jim hasn’t been riding on the flat that long), the popular pilot has only raced 106 times with just the three winners, for a 3% strike rate and a loss to £1 of £66 at industry starting price. Those losses were reduced to just £20 in non –handicaps (largely thanks to the 16/1 success of Berkshire in the Chesham Stakes in 2013, but still not the best set of figures out there – yet.
Ryan Moore used to get the pick of the Sir Michael Stoute runners and is now the Aidan O’Brien number one so you would expect big money from perhaps the best rider in the World today, but despite a huge 42 winners from 274 rides, (15%), he still shows a loss of £40.45 in the last decade, though if you only followed him in handicaps you would be £11.25 to the good with 12 winners from 83 races with 8/1 Ascot Stakes winner Simenon the main contributor.
Everyone has a different favourite but the line has to be drawn somewhere though Andrea Atzeni has been catching the eye in recent years and deserves a mention. Amazingly, he has had just the one winner so far from 52 races (or 2%) with Cursory Glance at 14/1, and is showing a level stakes loss of 37 points which will need improving if he wants to go down as one of the all-time greats.
To end with, the might of Godolphin means we need to look at James Doyle and William Buick, though in their defence they haven’t had the job for that long. Doyle had had 97 rides for 6 winners (6%) and a loss of £13.52 at SP, though he has made £8 in handicaps largely thanks to the 33/1 Royal Hunt Cup win of Belgian Bill in 2013. Buick has a little more experienced with 172 rides for 16 winners (9%), but a bigger loss of £28.75 with 22/1 chance Dark Missile back in 2007 his biggest winner.
Having knocked holes in the records of our top jockeys, the natural question arises – is there any jockey who has made a profit at Royal Ascot over the years, and better still, any that are actually riding? Although there is a longer than expected list of profitable Royal Ascot jockeys over the last decade, common sense suggests we ignore those with few rides as that proves nothing other than one big priced winner, and that in turn leads us to Steve Drowne. Steve may not be the most well know jockey but beauty is as beauty does, and from just the 29 rides he has won 5 races, for a 17% success rate and a level stakes profit at SP of £152 – to a £1 stake. Winners at 100/1 help (Flashmans Papers in 2008) but he is rarely seen on a favourite at this meeting regardless, and is well worth his place at the top of the pile. His profit margin is over five times that of his nearest pursuer in Seamie Heffernan (29 rides 3 winners 10% and exactly +£30.00), and then American raider John Velazquez who has two winners from 12 rides (17%) and a £29.50 profit in third thanks to Wes Ward’s Strike The Tiger at 33/1 in 2009, and Jealous Again at 13/2 in the same year.
With different horses, owners, and trainers form year to year the statistics can never be taken in isolation, but the obvious do not do as well as many expect, and with the majority of punters ignoring Steve Drowne, his rides are well worth a second glance as are those of Seamie Heffernan and John Velazquez with the top jockeys seemingly over bet. Our Royal Ascot Tips are going up on the site already including a £553 Lucky 15!