The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most prominent events in horse racing history.
Over the years, it has seen many jockeys showcase their talent and skills to the world.
However, only a few have achieved remarkable success at the festival, outshining the hundreds of others who have attempted to secure a victory.
Most Successful Jockeys in the UK
In 2023, the star of the show was Paul Townend. He secured top jockey honours with five victories under his belt, more than twice as many as the second-placed duo of Harry Cobden and Rachael Blackmore.
Townend first rode 11/10 favourite El Fabiolo to victory in the Arkle Challenge Trophy on Day 1, before picking up two more winners on Ladies’ Day, namely Impaire Et Passe and Energumene in the prestigious Queen Mother Champion Chase.
After a barren Day 3, he rode Lossiemouth to the win in the opening race of Day 4. But the crown in the jewel was winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup riding Galopin Des Champs.
The horse was made a 7/5 favourite by odds and offers comparison website OddsChecker.com, and Townend duly obliged in providing the victory.
This year, Oddschecker show them as having an even shorter price, as 6/5 favourites for glory (at time of writing). We wouldn’t be surprised to see the duo go back to back this April.
But while Townend was in scintillating form last time around, he still hasn’t quite managed to crack this list.
Here are the five most successful jockeys in the history of the Cheltenham Festival.
Ruby Walsh – 59 victories
When it comes to dominating the Cheltenham Festival, there’s nobody quite like Ruby Walsh.
He has won an incredible 59 races, more than any other jockey in the event’s history and stands a mighty 16 victories clear of the second-place runner.
The Irishman first made his mark at the festival exactly two decades ago when he rode Azertyuiop to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the start of an enthralling love affair with the Greatest Show on Turf.
Walsh’s partnership with legendary trainer Willie Mullins has been a significant factor behind his success. The pair have combined for the vast majority of the 44-year-old’s victories, but it hasn’t just been a one-way street.
While Walsh is the most successful jockey in the history of the festival, the 67-year-old Mullins is comfortably the most successful trainer, securing a whopping 94 winners, 21 clear of second-place Nicky Henderson.
Some of Walsh’s notable victories include firing Hurricane Fly to a win in the Champion Hurdle, Quevega in the Mares’ Hurdle, and twice riding home Kauto Star to Gold Cup triumph.
In total, he has won the Champion Hurdle three times, the Queen Mother Champion Chase twice, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice.
In fact, he has won every single race at the festival except for the Cross Country Chase.
After a sterling career, Walsh retired from the sport back in 2019 after once again claiming top jockey honours.
He has left behind a legacy that will be remembered for many years to come, and his shoes are something that the likes of the aforementioned Townend, Cobden and Blackmore are aiming to fill.
Barry Geraghty – 43
Another Irish jockey who has made a name for himself at the Cheltenham Festival is Barry Geraghty.
Also 44 years old, the Nicky Henderson stablemate has picked up 43 winners throughout his illustrious two-decade-long career riding at the festival, including two wins in the Gold Cup.
Geraghty first burst onto the scene in 2003, when he won four races in a single day. One of these was the famed Moscow Flyer, whom he steered home to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a trophy the pair would go on to defend the following year.
Since then, Geraghty has cemented his place as one of the most talented jockeys in the world, and his record at Cheltenham speaks for itself.
He won the same race a further three times on board Big Zeb, Finian’s Rainbow and finally the impressive Sprinter Sacre back in 2013.
If that wasn’t enough, he has twice won the Gold Cup alongside Bob’s Worth and Kicking King.
But his most impressive victory came in the 2014 Champion Hurdle when he rode the unheralded Jezki to victory ahead of an illustrious cast including the likes of Hurricane Fly, The New One and My Tent or Yours.
While he may not have quite as many victories as Ruby Walsh, Geraghty has still made a name for himself as one of the most talented jockeys around.
He retired in 2020 after one final festival on top, missing out on top jockey honours in a tiebreaker after securing five victories, the same number as Paul Townend.
Sir AP McCoy – 31
When it comes to legends of the sport, few can compare to Sir AP McCoy.
The iconic Northern Irishman may have retired in 2015, but his legacy both at Cheltenham and in the sport in general lives on.
Over the course of his career, he won an impressive 31 races, as well as winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, and even secured a knighthood from Her Majesty the Queen, cementing his place in history as one of the all-time greats.
Among his many victories are three Gold Cups, two Queen Mother Champion Chases, and two Champion Hurdles, as well as being given the Best Jockey award at the Festival no less than 11 times.
McCoy has won almost everything the sport has to offer and has enjoyed significant success at the Cheltenham Festival.
One of his most notable victories came on board the legendary Best Mate in the first of those three Gold Cups.
Another memorable performance was when he helped Synchronised win yet another Gold Cup in 2012.
His victory with Wichita Lineman in the 2009 RSA Chase also springs to mind as one of the all-time great Cheltenham rides.
McCoy retired in 2015 at the peak of his career and has since become a prominent broadcaster, sharing his expertise and insights with racing fans.
Pat Taaffe – 25
Although he may not be as well-known to modern racing fans, Pat Taaffe was one of the greatest jockeys of his generation, enjoying remarkable success in the 1950s and 1960s.
He is best known for his partnership with the legendary horse Arkle, whom he rode to three straight Gold Cup victories during his glory days, a feat that is yet to be repeated and that secured the horse a race named in its honour.
The Irish sensation won a total of 25 races at the Cheltenham Festival during his career. He passed away in 1992, but his legacy in horse racing continues to live on.
Richard Johnson – 23
Richard Johnson has long been one of the leading jockeys in British horse racing.
Although he has not enjoyed the same level of success as some of the other jockeys on this list, he has still won an impressive 23 races at the Cheltenham Festival.
Some of his notable victories include Flagship Uberalles in the Champion Chase, Looks Like Trouble in the Gold Cup, and Native River in the Gold Cup.