Grand National Jockeys

Aboard each of the 40 horses are jockeys in the Grand National at Aintree. Horse and rider are a partnership, human and equine up against the ultimate test of four-and-a-quarter miles around two circuits of the Merseyside racecourse and across 30 fences covered in spruce together. That is the task all Grand National jockeys face. Getting their mounts around Aintree to complete the course is a major achievement. Many Grand National riders have taken a tumble at famous obstacles like Becher’s Brook, the Canal Turn or The Chair down the years.

Some of the horses they are riding simply don’t take to the fences or find this extreme test of stamina too much. As Richard Pitman, one of the most famous jockeys in Grand National history once said, good horses make good jockeys. You have to have a brave, or at least well-handicapped, horse to win the world’s most famous steeplechase. It’s more than a steering job at Aintree, though, as Grand National riders need to sit tight after crossing certain fences and ask their horses to jump all the obstacles on the right stride. There is an element of luck to it too, but good horsemanship is another essential ingredient in victorious rides. We are going to celebrate some of the top active Grand National jockeys, and some of the up and coming ones here.

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Grand National Jockeys 2020

Author Bio

As a past Sports Editor of Coral bookmakers, Jamie Clark has an extensive background in both betting and horse racing. After growing up in Lincolnshire just a stone’s throw away from Market Rasen Racecourse – the site of dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll’s first ever appearance – where his father and godfather ran a trackside bookies’ pitch, you could say he was almost born into the industry. Jamie has produced copy for many of the major sportsbooks in the UK, including William Hill and Paddy Power. These titans of the industry come to him for runner by runner guides to major horse racing events like the Grand National, Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot. Jamie has a particularly keen interest in Irish horse racing, because so many top trainers end up targeting the prize money on offer at British galas of the sport. After tipping Sebass each-way in the 2012 Grand National and he finished third, he bravely put forward a forecast bet in 2018 featuring Tiger Roll and Pleasant Company which came off. Jamie is now working hard to identify the best Grand National contenders each and every year for you on this site. He’s got his eye on the horses you should follow to Aintree.

Our Top 5 Grand National Jockeys

So, who are the top jockeys in the Grand National that you need to be aware of? Our horse racing experts have picked out five based upon their past performances over the Aintree fences. Each rider on our shortlist has won the Grand National at least once before, so could do so again. They have also finished in the frame (first four places) on another occasion:

Barry Geraghty

Retained rider to leading Irish owner JP McManus since Sir Tony McCoy retired from the saddle, Barry Geraghty won the Grand National back in 2003 aboard Monty’s Pass. He has since ridden horses to be placed in the first four in the Aintree showpiece on five other occasions. No active jockeys in the Grand National can boast as good a record as that. Geraghty will likely have the pick of the horses running in those famous green and gold hooped silks of McManus, so that gives him every chance of enhancing his fine record in this race.

Davy Russell

Having twiced partnered Tiger Roll to Grand National glory in consecutive years in 2018 and 2019, Davy Russell is of obvious interest. To go with those two memorable back to back wins, he also placed third aboard Saint Are in 2017. No Grand National riders have ridden the course better than Russell in recent years. His long standing relationships with Irish trainer Gordon Elliott and powerful owners Gigginstown House Stud mean whatever his mount, he looks sure to be on something with a chance. Like Geraghty, Russell has tons of Aintree experience on his side.

David Mullins

A Grand National winner aboard Rule The World in 2016, David Mullins is from one of Irish jumps horse racing’s most prominent families. Grandson to the late Paddy Mullins and nephew of the Emerald Isle’s current master trainer Willie Mullins, he was beaten just a head on Pleasant Company by Tiger Roll and Russell in a thrilling photo finish at Aintree a couple of years later in 2018. A win and a place in recent times makes whatever horse David Mullins is booked to ride is of obvious interest, because it’s likely to be a prominent Irish contender.

Robbie Power

Partnering Silver Birch to Grand National glory for Elliott in 2007 helped to put Robbie Power on the map. He has since gone on to finish fourth at Aintree again 2016 on Gilgamboa. Power also landed a memorable and historic Gold Cup treble at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown aboard Sizing John in 2017. He is the retained rider to the late Alan and Ann Potts, whose horses continue to honour their memory by running in their yellow, green and red colours. He is booked to ride for the likes of Elliott, Jessica Harrington, Mullins and Colin Tizzard.

Daryl Jacob

Neptune Collonges was third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but won the 2012 Grand National for Ditcheat trainer Paul Nicholls and Daryl Jacob. The jockey has since become retained rider to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede which has led to a number of big race victories. He is often seen sporting their two-tone green silks and finished sixth in the 2016 Grand National in them aboard Ucello Conti. Jacob previously placed at Aintree when fourth on Philson Run in 2007, so whatever he gets a leg up on – and that could be a British or Irish contender – merits careful consideration.

Up and Coming Jockeys at the Grand National

The Grand National jockeys mentioned above are all major and established names in the weighing room. Given the Aintree showpiece can be something of a lottery, it’s also worth keeping an eye on up and coming riders, so we asked our experts to select three:

Jack Kennedy

As a retained rider to Gigginstown House Stud and number one jockey at the County Meath stable of Gordon Elliott, Jack Kennedy already has a reasonably high profile in the Irish jumps scene. What would really help to elevate this young rider even further would be a big ride in the Grand National. The connections he represents look sure to have a more than decent mount for him as Gigginstown look to continue their recent dominance at Aintree following those wins for Rule The World and Tiger Roll. Kennedy could be a force in years to come and become better known in the UK.

Harry Cobden

Associations with two of Britain’s top National Hunt yards – Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard – leave Harry Cobden well placed to get a decent ride for the Grand National. Both trainers like to have runners at Aintree and that puts him in with a chance of being booked by either. As with Kennedy, Cobden has his whole career still ahead of him and already shown maturity in the saddle beyond his tender years. There is definitely more to come from him as he picks up valuable Aintree experience. Cobden could be a big player in future, if his links to Nicholls and Tizzard continue to bear fruit.

Jonjo O’Neill Jr

Father Jonjo Sr has trained a Grand National winner in Don’t Push It back in 2010, plus a whole host of placed horses down the years. Jonjo O’Neill Jr has made a very promising start to his career as a jockey indeed after riding out his conditional claim. His family ties to leading Irish owner JP McManus and link up with Tizzard are avenues he can explore with the prospect of something to ride in the big one at Aintree in future. We haven’t seen the last of the name O’Neill in connection with the Grand National and the future for Jonjo Jr is very bright indeed.

Complete List of Grand National Jockeys 2020

This is the list of active Grand National riders who could have a mount in the next edition of the Aintree showpiece:

  • James Best
  • Rachael Blackmore
  • James Bowen
  • Sean Bowen
  • Paddy Brennan
  • Henry Brooke
  • JJ Burke
  • Tom Cannon
  • Harry Cobden
  • Jamie Codd
  • Aidan Coleman
  • Danny Cook
  • Nico de Boinville
  • Charlie Deutsch
  • Tommy Dowson
  • Sean Flanagan
  • Derek Fox
  • Bryony Frost
  • Barry Geraghty
  • Adrian Heskin
  • Daryl Jacob
  • Richard Johnson
  • Jack Kennedy
  • Paddy Kennedy
  • Ryan Mania
  • Jeremiah McGrath
  • Richie McLernon
  • Jamie Moore
  • Joshua Moore
  • Danny Mullins
  • David Mullins
  • Patrick Mullins
  • Derek O’Connor
  • Sean O’Keeffe
  • Jonjo O’Neill Jr
  • Denis O’Regan
  • Robbie Power
  • Davy Russell
  • Tom Scudamore
  • Kevin Sexton
  • Paul Townend
  • Jack Tudor
  • Sam Twiston-Davies
  • Mark Walsh
  • Adam Wedge

Grand National Riders

As you have seen on this page, there are many jockeys in the Grand National for owners and trainers to choose from. Those who have retainers will have input into the decision about which ones they ride, while others may not have a booking and be actively seeking a leg up on a horse at Aintree. Who would be a Grand National jockey? It takes bravery, patience and skill to ride the course and successfully complete it. Winning still needs a slice of luck. Fortune favours the brave, however, and bold rides can go one of two ways. It could blow up in the faces of Grand National riders who have made too much use of their horse, but others benefit from front-running tactics and getting a cut at the unique Aintree fences. These are just some of the tactical decisions jockeys need to take before and during the race. The course has a very long run-in from the final fence, as the track takes the famous elbow around the water jump to the finishing line and winning post. It can be a very lonely place to be out in front as jockeys in Grand National history have found to their cost. Richard Pitman, mentioned above, was seemingly cruising to victory aboard Crisp in 1973, but a certain rival horse called Red Rum started to claw back at their lead on the run-in. As Crisp emptied, Red Rum got up to win and so an Aintree legend was born. Pitman’s mount just had nothing left and didn’t respond to his urgings. This is now the stuff of the Grand National folklore. It is also a vital lesson. All Grand National riders need to know what they have under them and whether a horse will respond for pressure.

Respect the Aintree Fences

Another important point for jockeys in the Grand National to take on board is to respect the obstacles. Although the fences on the course have been modified in recent years in the interests of promoting equine safety, they still take some jumping. Grand National jockeys have to remember that. The race’s history is littered with examples of melees and pile-ups when one horse falling resulted in taking many others out of the race. It isn’t as common in modern times, but the potential for danger still remains. Injuries to horse and jockey do happen. Thankfully, throughout its entire history only one of the Grand National riders has died. That fact is a stark reminder of the risks attached to National Hunt horse racing. Aintree have been very keen on promoting greater safety in recent years, because they know there is a worldwide TV audience in excess of 500,000,000 watching the race around the world. Many of them are casual viewers of the sport who may find equine or human injuries upsetting. One thing’s for sure, jockeys in the Grand National have to be admired for putting everything on the line in pursuit of glory and a place in Aintree, horse racing and sporting history.

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