Horse racing is a sport that is enjoyed across the globe, and it’s no surprise that many young children grow up dreaming of becoming a jockey and winning some of the most prestigious races on the calendar.
While there is an endless list of top-quality jockeys to have been born in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States, the standard of Canadian jockeys is so often overlooked across the globe. There are plenty of jockeys from Canada participating in the best races in the world on racetracks such as Saratoga, Churchill Downs, or in the Del Mar betting guide by TwinSpires.com.
However, who are some of the most successful Canadian jockeys that have ever stepped foot on a race course?
It would be hard to start anywhere else other than Sandy Hawley. He set his sights on becoming a jockey when he was 17, and rode for the first time two years later. His apprentice season was one of the most successful for a Canadian rider, as he led the Canadian standings, and also achieved success on the east coast of the U.S. In 1969, his star continued to rise, as he rode 230 winners, which was the highest number of any jockey in North America.
His success in Canada soon followed to the United States, as he was the top jockey in the years ending 1972, 1973 and 1976. His most successful season came in 1973, as he became the first jockey to reach 500 wins in the year. Hawley recorded earnings in the region of $88 million throughout his career, which included four wins in each of the Queen’s Plate and Breeders’ Stakes.
One of the most memorable Canadian jockeys of all-time was Rob Turcotte. The main reason for his legacy was his record in US Triple Crown races, most notably with Secretariat. His season in 1973 will be forever remembered for his ride on the legendary horse in the Kentucky Derby, while the three-year-old would later smash the speed records in both the Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes. His record in the big races between 1972 and 1973 was astounding, as he led jockeys in terms of wins in stakes races.
Turcotte was also the first ever jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in consecutive years, as he rode Riva Ridge to victory in 1972 before Secretariat won the race the following year. The Canadian also set the astounding record of winning five from six Triple Crown races, but that record was later matched by Victor Espinoza in 2015. During his career, he recorded an astounding 3,032 winners, which included two victories in each of the Triple Crown races.
James McAleney was born in British Columbia, and began his racing career win 1986 in Western Canada. His first win was recorded in Edmonton, before he competed in the West of Canada the following year in Ontario. His apprentice year was an outstanding campaign, as he picked up the Sovereign Award of Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. From 1988, he has based in Toronto, and once again picked up the award for the champion apprentice. While the majority of his big wins were recorded in Ontario, he also ventured across the boarder to pick up victories at U.S. tracks such as Keeneland and Monmouth Park.
One of his biggest wins came in 2001, as he won his first Canadian Classic with Sweetest Thing in the Breeders’ Stakes. His second Canadian Classic win would come in 2015 in the Prince of Wales Stakes. McAleney’s best record in a single race came in the Bessarabian Stakes, which he won on three occasions. However, he also recorded three victories in each of the Coronation Futurity Stakes, New Providence Stakes and Nandi Stakes throughout his career. His last stakes win came in the Ontario Debutante Stakes in 2016.