The Best Performing Jockeys of 2014

Gavin Sheehan is 2014 Geegeez Jockey of the Year

Gavin Sheehan is 2014 Geegeez Jockey of the Year

Who were the best jockeys in 2014?

This article looks at the jockeys who can lay claim to having been at the top of their peer group in the past twelve months. It is something of a fun post because there are as many ways of interpreting the best in a bunch as there are people with an opinion on the matter.

My starting point was to look at those jockeys who had ridden at least 75 horses from the first three in the betting in Britain and Ireland during 2014. Although lacking somewhat in finesse, this does at least offer a chance to compare the merits of a diverse and statistically significant group of riders.

Best Jockeys of 2014

Jockey performance can be judged by plenty of different measures, but surely the two most meaningful are:

- Win strike rate (from a mainly academic perspective)

- Win profit/loss (from a mainly pocket-driven perspective)

Highest Strike Rates on Fancied Runners

The first table, then, shows the jockeys who won the highest percentage of their rides on horses in the first three in the betting in 2014:

Jockey Bets Wins Win Strike SP P/L
Sheehan, Mr G 154 57 37% 53.86
Mullins, Mr P W 135 50 37% -26.44
Walsh, R 205 73 36% -41.41
Townend, P 194 68 35% -0.19
Cooper, Bryan J 138 44 32% 6.48
McCoy, A P 737 228 31% -75.98
Geraghty, B J 359 107 30% 13.07
Power, R M 111 32 29% 45.66
Hanagan, Paul 320 92 29% 11.98
O'Brien, J P 325 94 29% -70

There are lots of conclusions to be drawn from this table, many of which may be obvious but are at least substantiated by the numbers.

First, it is utterly pointless backing either AP McCoy or Joseph O'Brien on fancied runners as a general principle. Their strike rates - around 30% - are impressive enough, except that they haemorrhage punters' pennies.

In both cases, a large proportion of the mounts in this sample are sent off favourite (as opposed to second or third market choice). And in both cases, blindly backing market leaders has led to only flesh wounds to the betting bank.

Rather, it is the subset of McCoy / O'Brien horses (falsely?) promoted to second or third favouritism which causes the significant leakage.

Shee-r Class

On the more positive side, the main man of 2014, in both strike rate and profit terms, has been Gavin Sheehan. Originally annexed to the Charlie Mann yard, Sheehan moved to Warren Greatrex in August, having ridden out his claim - as all National Hunt jockeys do in UK on the occasion of their 75th winner - on 19th April.

This can be a curse for many riders, but not young Gavin, who has added a further 56 wins to his palmarès since then. Whilst the bulk of those have been for Greatrex, he's ridden eight winners (from 30 rides) for Mann in his eight 'unconditional' months, and one apiece for another thirteen stables.

Feel The Power

In Ireland, although the likes of Ruby Walsh, Patrick Mullins and, to lesser degree, Paul Townend and Bryan Cooper are largely on the market radar, the most interesting entry in the high strike rate list is Robbie Power. Power has been around for a long time, and he rode Silver Birch to win the 2007 Grand National. But he's never been so prolific - or so profitable - as he has this year.

So what's changed? Two things, actually.

Firstly, Power has been getting the majority of rides for Aidan O'Brien's resurgent National Hunt string. He's won on a third of the 39 horses he's ridden for O'Brien in the 2014/15 season, which is ten more wins - and thirty more rides - than the next most patronized pilot.

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And secondly, he's enjoyed a bit of a renaissance when riding for Jessie Harrington. Power's overall 2014 figures have the look of happenstance about them when taken in the longer term context of his performance. And I'd not be betting on him continuing the fine run he's enjoyed during the last twelve months.

The Best of the Best?

The last thing to take from this table is the performance of Barry Geraghty. For such a high profile rider as Geraghty to ride at such a high strike rate on fancied horses, and still make a profit for backers at SP, is quite a remarkable achievement.

And the evidence of why Geraghty may be the best of the best was seen - circumstantially at least - at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, when Geraghty twice rode the legs off Tony McCoy. On the Tuesday, BJ tactically outclassed AP as he squirted his mount, Jezki, up the rail and stole an ultimately insurmountable march from McCoy on My Tent Or Yours, bullying the latter between the last two. I backed the second to win plenty, and was undone by a tactical masterclass.

To prove that was no fluke, Geraghty repeated the dose on another McManus 'second string', as More Of That had his powder kept dry until the last before asserting past At Fisher's Cross - steered and cajoled by McCoy - and Annie Power. The mare gave Geraghty more to think about, but our Barry was having none of it atop his willingly progressive partner.

Top man, that Geraghty. Top man.

**

Most Profitable Jockeys of 2014

There's little sense dwelling on this table for too long, as it can be a case of the profit tail wagging the performance dog. Nevertheless, it is worth scouting those fellows that put the most theoretical profit into punters' pockets in the outgoing year.

Jockey Bets Wins Win Strike SP P/L
Sheehan, Mr G 154 57 37% 53.86
Power, R M 111 32 29% 45.66
Baker, George 477 134 28% 33.1
Keane, C T 203 54 27% 31.57
Tudhope, Daniel 342 95 28% 27.99
Berry, F M 181 47 26% 27.9
Beasley, Connor 163 40 25% 19.24
Doyle, James 369 105 28% 19.08
Kingscote, Richard 249 63 25% 18.68
Mania, Ryan 123 31 25% 14.47

Be Keane on the Fabulous Baker Boy

Take a bow, Gavin. As previously mentioned, Sheehan's was a cracking effort to top both the strike rate and profit charts in 2014. Mr Power has also been mentioned above, but George Baker, Daniel Tudhope and, in Ireland, Colin Keane, are all worthy of comment.

Each has ridden at least 200 horses sent off in the top three in the market, so to record profit at starting price is some achievement. Tudhope has been helped enormously by riding for David O'Meara, but then the reciprocal is also true.

George Baker's performance as a freelancer is arguably the most impressive. He rode winners for no less than 47 trainers against the above criteria, and he rode multiple winners for 26 different handlers. Baker is well worth following on fancied horses, as he's made an SP profit in this context in all bar one of the last five seasons.

Likewise, Colin Keane has been profitable to follow at SP in all four of his professional riding seasons; though, unlike Baker, most of his wins were achieved for a single trainer,  Ger Lyons. Specifically, 35 of his 54 wins on horses in the top three of the betting in 2014 were for Lyons.

Moreover, Keane failed to make the frame for just ten of the 32 trainers for whom he rode, nine of those on solitary runners.

Finally, it's sad in a way to relate that another Grand National-winning jockey, Ryan Mania - who bagged the 2013 renewal aboard 66/1 poke Auroras Encore - hung up his boots in November. He was the tenth most profitable fellow to follow against the criteria of this piece, but reportedly lost his love for the game, presumably on account of ongoing battles with wanting to eat the same amount that most 'normal' humans do.

A large number of jockeys are superhuman but, even amongst such dedicated souls, there are super-super-humans, as the numbers above attest.

p.s. Tomorrow, the top trainers of 2014...

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12 replies
  1. Chris Worrall says:

    Very interesting stuff, Matt, exactly the kind of thing I find useful.
    Extra kudos for the use of the word palmarès.

  2. Johnners77 says:

    Fascinating post Matt. It would be interesting to look at the concept of ‘value added’ when considering who might be the best jockeys of 2014. Some sort of algorithm whereby you look at the horses sp and then compare that with its finishing position – high odds and a good placing might indicate a quality ride from a decent pilot! Off to Delhi on Saturday and looking forward to my first racing experience in India – any tips??!!

    Happy New Year to you, Chris and the whole Geegeez Community.
    Best wishes
    Mark J

  3. lickybits says:

    i find backing AP mccoy at odds of evens or less is disastrous, if hes on a 2/1 – 6/1 shot he seems to do better…

    i’m amazed tudhope is on the list as i have never rated him has a jockey…

    but ill be looking out for power and sheenan in the future

  4. lickybits says:

    i think because mccoy is so well know and on everyone’s radar, any horse hes riding is shortened in price just because hes on the back..

    a bit like any horse trained by willy mullins, theres not much value in backing them

  5. chrismac says:

    excellent stuff indeed and a couple of little systems in there to take on in 2015
    Happy new year

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Brian

      I’m merely observing about the jockeys I’d rather be putting my money on. The McCoy Factor is ALWAYS incorporated into the price.

      Matt

  6. Brian says:

    Hi Matt,
    Interesting that you are claiming that At Fishers Cross and My Tent and yours are superior to the other two. Cannot agree as I feel McCoy like many another good jockey simply picked the wrong ones.
    Brian

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Fair enough, Brian. That’s a matter of opinion, of course, but My Tent was strongly favoured in the betting.

      Matt

  7. whiston01 says:

    Barry Geraghty is a top jockey.Of that there is no doubt.To say Geraghty rode the legs off McCoy in two races at Cheltenham is absolute rubbish.My Tent Or Yours pulled its head off and thats why it didnt get home.Fishers Cross makes mistakes(lots of em) and thats why he has not produced his best in the last couple of seasons.
    The top 3 jockeys are McCoy,Walsh and Geraghty.There is nothing between them.However if i wanted somebody riding for my life there can only be one,thats the man who has rode over 4000 winners.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      I’m afraid I disagree re MTOY. He was closing all the way to the line, but BJG got first run. Watch it again, if you haven’t recently. I watched it a couple of times before writing what I did.

      And although I agree about AFC’s mistakes, McCoy made plenty of use of him and he was a sitting duck for the two closers after the last.

      Nobody ever needs a jockey “riding for my life”, but if I wanted one who has both class and value on his side, it would (still) be Geraghty.

      Matt

      p.s. It’s all about opinions, and neither of us is right or wrong! 😉

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