First up, a caveat: it’s almost impossible to know how much a top jockey actually earns. As well as retainers from stables and owners, top jockeys get a cut of prize money, appearance fees, and of course have many other racing-related ventures that contribute to their wealth. Therefore, here we focus on career earnings, meaning the money brought in by the horses these jockeys have ridden to success.
Many of these jockeys remain active, and being aware of their stellar success is certainly something to consider when scanning the betting sites looking for your next winner. As well as the calibre of the jockey and the form of the horse, make sure you follow the best racing tips for further insights. But for now, on with our list:
10) Yasunari Iwata – $345m
Over 1,600 career winners contribute to this fortune amassed by Iwata, a double Hong Kong Sprint champion. Most of Iwata’s success came domestically, but in his first race outside of his native country, Iwata claimed a stunning win in the Melbourne Cup on Delta Blues in 2006. He was the first Japanese jockey to win the prestigious race.
9) Fujita Shinji – $350m
With just shy of 2,000 winners, this Japanese rider amassed a fortune, mostly accumulated in his native Japan. Longeivity and grit combined beautifully in the success of this rider.
8) Javier Castellano – $354m
The Venezuelan has ridden well over 5,300 winners in his long career, which ranks second among jockeys in this top ten list, and he is only one of only two non-Japanese riders in the top ten. Still active, Castellano recorded his first American wins in 2004, and in his illustrious career has claimed victories including in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Preakness Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
7) Yukio Okabe – $358m
With just shy of 3,000 wins in his illustrious career, Okabe is considered to be somewhat of a pioneer for Japanese jockeys in that he looked to race abroad, and claimed some memorable victories. The Prix Jacques Le Marois was perhaps the biggest, and there’s no doubting the trailblazing nature of this Japanese Racing Association Hall of Famer.
6) Yoshitomi Shibata – $416m
With nearly 3,000 career winners, Shibata has been active since 1985 – the year he ran his first winner. This three-time Kanto champion jockey has had plenty of notable wins in his native Japan, including the Tenno Sho twice, the Japan Dirt Derby and the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup
5) John R. Valazquez – $430m
Th Puerto Rican is the highest-placed non-Japanese rider on this list, amassing well over $400 million in career prize money from his 6,258 winners, which is by far the most in this top ten. Valazquez is a true legend of the sport, starting out in his native Puerto Rico before moving to the States. He was US Champion Jockey by earnings twice, has been inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and his most notable wins include 15 Breeder’s Cup races, and no fewer than six Triple Crowns.
4) Yuichi Fukunaga – $479m
Only a few thousand dollars off of number three position on this list, Fukunaga has ridden over 2,400 winners over his long and illustrious career. Those wins include no fewer than 29 Grade 1s in both his native Japan and internationally. A jockey who is still actively riding and winning, recent successes for Fukunaga include the 2021 Japan Cup on Contrail.
3) Masayoshi Ebina – $479
With over 2,500 career wins, a rider who is known by his nickname Ebi-Shō is probably most synonymous with his mount El Condor Pasa, who he rode to victory in the 1998 Japan Cup, and who placed second with Ebina in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe a year later. That same year Ebina won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on the same horse, once again proving what a formidable team of mount and jockey can achieve. Ebina also claimed the 1195 Hong Kong Cup on Fujiyama Kenzan.
2) Norihiro Yokoyama – $561
Yokoyama has nearly 3,000 career wins to his name, which is an incredible number, no doubt, but is dwarfed by many other jockeys. What Yokoyama has done successfully is ridden consistent winners in a golden age of Japanese racing, a time in which prize money in the country has far surpassed any other market. A serial champion, Yokoyama has claimed many notable successes in his career, but continues to be overshadowed by the man sitting at number one on this list.
1) Yutaka Take – $796m
If you were in doubt just how lucrative horse racing in Japan is, then you need only check out the numbers brought in by the undisputed king of Japanese racing. Take’s father and brother were both jockeys, but it is this man who tops the list of highest-earning jockeys with nearly $800m amassed from victories secured all around the world. Deep Impact was his most famous mount – the pair claimed seven Grade 1 wins. With over 4,200 career wins to his name, the king of Japanese racing is also our undisputed number 1.