Which jockey is most likely to unseat? Statistics on jockeys that unseated
A lot of people (myself included) have done a lot of research on jockeys, and I know a lot of punters blindly follow certain jockeys. Unless you had a decent accumulator bet on Frankie Dettori’s 25,000 to 1 ‘magnificent seven’ at Ascot in 1996 then I’m not sure this is a profitable strategy in the long-run. However, the ability of the jockey is clearly very important. The problem is that identifying a good from a bad jockey is that it is fairly hard to come up with one statistic that tell you what you need to know. The number of winners and a jockey’s win strike rate is useful but that won’t necessarily pick up the rising stars of the future or those jockeys that are simply underrated by trainers and don’t get the decent rides that they deserve.
In all the research I have done – and some of it got fairly complex – there is one simple metric that seems to be a good discriminator of jockey ability. The statistic that seems to be matter, from a winner finding point of view, is the ability of a jockey in National Hunt racing to be able to stay in the saddle! Basically jockey’s that regularly unseat are bad bets. They might be riding the favourite but if they have a habit of falling off then you need to know this before placing a bet.
You can’t find statistics on the subject of unseated rides from the usual sources such as the Racing Post website. There is plenty of data about wins and rides over hurdles and fences, prize money won and the number of place finishes, and even minimum riding weight over the last twelve months, but nothing on how good a jockey was at actually staying on his mount. Of course this is a good thing for those prepared to bother with compiling their own statistics because it is a little bit of information that isn’t readily available to other punters and layers and therefore might not be reflected in the horses odds, giving a bit of value to those with the extra bit of data.
Each year I’ve therefore compiled a fresh set of statistics on jockeys that unseat, and in this article I want to share with you my latest set of jockey statistics.
The first thing to note is the definition of an ‘unseat’ and how it differs from a fall in the form book. Professional race readers, who compile the official form book, determine whether a horse has fallen or if the jockey fell off. A fall is basically when the jockey had no chance of staying on board because the horse physically hit the deck. An unseat is when the horse might have made a mistake jumping a fence but remained on its feet but the jockey was unable to remain in the saddle. In practice there is quite a wide range of unseats. There are plenty of occasions when the horse has made such an error that no jockey, unless super glued to the saddle, is going to be able to keep the partnership intact. However, there are also plenty of occasions when you think that a jockey simply fell off when another jockey might have been able to stay in the saddle.
I’ve analysed the results of all jump races run in Great Britain and Ireland in 2018. For reasons of space, and to cut out the noise from small numbers, I’ve restricted the results to jockeys that had more than one hundred rides over the period. I haven’t distinguished between hurdle and chase races to keep the sample as large as possible. The results are set out in the Table at the bottom of this article.
The Table doesn’t make good reading for Nathan Moscrop, Ambrose McCurtin, Jack Sherwood, Brendan Powell or James Best. They fill the top five spaces in the Table based on the proportion of unseats that they recorded.
As you would expect big name jockeys Richard Johnson and Sam Twiston-Davies record very few unseats. However, below them are a band of jockeys that must be gluing themselves to the saddle. Davy Russell, Denis O'Regan, Sean Quinlan, Harry Skelton, Paddy Brennan, and Brian Hughes are jockeys that must be getting things right when it comes to getting a horse to jump.
Davy Russell is one of my favourite jockeys and he seems to get good priced winners and always records a low proportion of unseats. There are some jockeys that a have a large number of rides but don’t seem to have recorded any unseats in my database. I need to check for errors but even allowing for the odd one or two missed unseats Mark Walsh, Bridget Andrews, Ricky Doyle, Micheal Nolan and Niall P Madden are clearly excellent National Hunt jockeys.