The Most Successful Jockeys at the Cheltenham Festival

Gold Trophy Number 1 on PodiumIn the world of horse racing, perhaps only Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood stand up to the Cheltenham Festival in terms of meetings that are beloved by people all over world. There is an argument that the Grand National is the nation’s favourite individual race, which is why it earned its moniker as ‘the World’s Greatest Steeplechase’, but the racing that surrounds it at Aintree Racecourse doesn’t quite hold the same sense of prestige as all of the events that are run during Cheltenham week at Prestbury Park, so winning there means more.

As you can imagine, the jockeys, trainers and owners that win events during the Cheltenham Festival feel that little bit more special when they step onto the podium in the wake of the race. The Winner’s Enclosure is the place that people want to be, because it means that they’ll have enjoyed success in one of the races that is run during the week. As a result, the jockey that has won more races than anyone else sits at the top of the pile in terms of prestige. Here is a look at the most successful jockeys at the meeting.

Quick Answer: Which Jockey Has Won the Most Races at the Cheltenham Festival?

Ruby Walsh is the Cheltenham Festival’s most successful jockey with 59 wins between 1998 and 2019. Barry Geraghty has the second most wins with 43 ahead of Sir A. P. McCoy with 31.

Ruby Walsh also has the most or joint most wins in 11 of the 28 races at The Festival. Barry Geraghty has the record or co-record number of wins in 6 races.

The Best Jockeys In Each Race

Champion Hurdle 2014 Race Finish

By Carine06, flickr

The information about races that are run during the Cheltenham Festival is such that we’re able to look at the list of current races and identify which jockeys have been the most successful in them. At the time of writing, the Cheltenham Festival takes place over four days and there are seven races run on each day for a total of 28 races. The information around the early years of the Festival is sometimes a little sketchy, so what we’re providing here is what we know about the races as of the meeting in 2023 in order of when the races are currently run.

Most Successful Festival Jockeys by Race

Race (Years) Jockey(s) Wins
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1972 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 6
Arkle Challenge Trophy (1946 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 4
Barry Geraghty 4
Festival Trophy Handicap Chase (1946 – 2023) Tom Scudamore 3
Robert Thornton 3
Champion Hurdle (1927 – 2023) Barry Geraghty 4
Ruby Walsh 4
Tim Molony 4
David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle (2008 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 8
Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle (2005 – 2023) Mark Walsh 2
National Hunt Chase (1860 – 2023) Ted Wilson 5
Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle (1971 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 4
Broadway Novices’ Chase (1946 – 2023) Pat Taaffe 5
Coral Cup (1993 – 2023) Barry Geraghty 3
Davy Russell 3
Queen Mother Champion Chase (1959 – 2023) Barry Geraghty 5
Pat Taaffe 5
Cross Country Chase (2005 – 2023) Keith Donoghue 4
Nina Carberry 4
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (1946 – 2023) Graham Bradley 4
Champion Bumper (1992 – 2023) Patrick Mullins 3
Ruby Walsh 3
Golden Miller Novices’ Chase (2011 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 3
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (1974 – 2023) Barry Geraghty 3
Davy Russell 3
Jim Wilson 3
Ryanair Chase (2005 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 4
Stayers’ Hurdle (1972 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 5
Plate Handicap Chase (1951 – 2023) Fred Winter 3
Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (2016 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 2
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase (1946 – 2023) Jamie Codd 4
Triumph Hurdle (1939 – 2023) Barry Geraghty 5
County Handicap Hurdle (1920 – 2023) Ruby Walsh 4
Spa Novices’ Hurdle (2005 – 2023) A P McCoy 3
Cheltenham Gold Cup (1924 – 2023) Pat Taaffe 4
Festival Hunter Chase (1946 – 2023) Colman Sweeney 3
Liberthine Mares’ Chase (2021 – 2023) 3 Jockeys 1
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle (2009 – 2023) 15 Jockeys 1

When it comes to the Liberthine Mares’ Chase and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, the two races have yet to be won by the same jockey more than once. As a result, we’re reluctant to declare either event to have a ‘most successful’ jockey.

A race which doesn’t feature in the list above is the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase which was run at the Festival between 2005 and 2021 before being switched to Sandown. Whilst at Cheltenham, the leading jockeys in this race were Graham Lee and Brian Hughes who both had two wins.

The Jockeys with the Most Cheltenham Festival Wins

Ruby Walsh Celebrating on Vautor

By Carine06, flickr

Now that we know the most successful jockey in each individual race, it gives us more of an idea about what to expect in terms of the most successful jockey overall from all of the Cheltenham Festivals that have taken place. Of course, as with the individual races, it isn’t necessarily all that easy to identify the most successful jockeys from the more formative years of the meeting. Even so, we’ve done what we can to outline which jockeys have won the most races over the years.

Ruby Walsh – 59 Wins

Chart That Shows Ruby Walsh's Cheltenham Festival Wins by Year Between 1998 and 2019

If you paid attention to the jockeys that had won each race the most, you’ll have seen one name crop up more than most. Ruby Walsh won the Leading Rider award an astonishing 11 times during his career. It says something of just how talented Walsh was as a jockey that both Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins were happy to share him as their retained rider, effectively giving him the choice of the best rides at any given time. He won his first race at the Cheltenham Festival in 1998, which came on Alexander Banquet.

That win came when Walsh was an amateur, but it didn’t take him long to turn professional and make the most of his talent. In spite of how good he was and his love of the Cheltenham Festival, he only won the Gold Cup twice; proving, perhaps, just how difficult a race that is to win. Those two wins came on the back of Kauto Star for Paul Nicholls, who was also the trainer of Azertyuiop and Master Minded, with whom Walsh won the Champion Chase on a combined three occasions. He won the Champion Hurdle four times for Willie Mullins.

Of all of Walsh’s achievements, there is perhaps nothing quite as impressive as what he managed with Quevega, winning the Mares’ Hurdle together six times. To prove that wasn’t a one-off, Walsh also won the Stayers’ Hurdle four times with Big Buck’s. The former horse was trained by Willie Mullins, whilst Paul Nicholls took on the duty with Big Buck’s to show that Walsh really could work with any horse and any trainer and take it to success.

In 2009, Walsh set a new record for most wins by a jockey in a single Festival when he won seven races. He repeated the trick on 2016, this time on the back of seven horses that were all trained by Willie Mullins. The association with Mullins lasted right until the end of Walsh’s career. His final Festival win came thanks to Klassical Dream, with whom he finished first in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019. His success at Prestbury Park was immortalised when the trophy awarded to the best rider was given the moniker of the Ruby Walsh Trophy.

  • Eight Wins
    • David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle – Quevega (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), Vroum Vroum Mag (2016), Benie Des Dieux (2018)
  • Six Wins
    • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Noland (2006), Al Ferof (2011), Champagne Fever (2013), Vautour (2014), Douvan (2015), Klassical Dream (2019)
  • Five Wins
    • Stayers’ Hurdle – Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), Nicholls Canyon (2017)
  • Four Wins
    • Arkle Challenge Trophy – Azertyuiop (2003), Un De Sceaux (2015), Douvan (2016), Footpad (2018)
    • Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle – Fivefourthree (2008), Mikael D’Haguenet (2009), Faugheen (2014), Yorkhill (2016)
    • Champion Hurdle – Hurricane Fly (2011, 2013), Faugheen (2015), Annie Power (2016)
    • County Handicap Hurdle – Sporazene (2004), Desert Quest (2006), American Triology (2009), Final Approach (2011)
    • Ryanair Chase – Thisthatandtother (2005), Taranis (2007), Vautour (2016), Un De Sceaux (2017)
  • Three Wins
    • Champion Bumper – Alexander Banquet (1998), Missed That (2005), Briar Hill (2013)
    • Golden Miller Novices’ Chase – Vautour (2015), Black Hercules (2016), Yorkhill (2017)
    • Queen Mother Champion Chase – Azertyuiop (2004), Master Minded (2008, 2009)
  • Two Wins
    • Broadway Novices’ Chase – Denman (2007), Cooldine (2009)
    • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Kauto Star (2007, 2009)
    • Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Limini (2016), Let’s Dance (2017)
  • One Win
    • Festival Trophy Handicap Chase – Dun Doire (2006)
    • Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Sanctuaire (2010)
    • Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase – St Pirran (2004)
    • Plate Handicap Chase – Blowing Wind (2002)
    • Triumph Hurdle – Celestial Halo (2008)

Barry Geraghty – 43 Wins

Chart That Shows Barry Geraghty's Cheltenham Festival Wins by Year Between 2002 and 2020

The other jockey whose name cropped up on the table above several times is Barry Geraghty. Despite only winning the leading jockey title twice, in 2003 and 2012, his consistency saw him rack up 43 wins during the course of his career. In fact, he was on the back of a winner at every single Festival between 2002 and 2016, only missing the 2017 meeting because of an injury. He first won the Gold Cup in 2005 riding Kicking King, then repeated the trick eight years later thanks to Bobs Worth.

The win on Bobs Worth came about thanks to the training efforts of Nicky Henderson, with whom Geraghty had an excellent working relationship. During the years, Geraghty won the Triumph Hurdle five times and the Arkle on four occasions. That was largely thanks to the fact that he was the retained rider of J.P. McManus, one of the top owners in Festival history. His career came to an end in 2020, when he signed off as he’d always done: by winning. He put five more wins to his name before hanging up his saddle for the final time.

  • Five Wins
    • Queen Mother Champion Chase – Moscow Flyer (2003, 2004), Big Zeb (2010), Finian’s Rainbow (2012), Sprinter Sacre (2013)
    • Triumph Hurdle – Spectroscope (2003), Zaynar (2009), Soldatino (2010), Peace And Co (2015), Ivanovich Gorbatov (2016)
  • Four Wins
    • Arkle Challenge Trophy – Moscow Flyer (2002), Forpaddydeplasterer (2009), Sprinter Sacre (2012), Simonsig (2013)
    • Broadway Novices’ Chase – Star De Mohaison (2006), Bobs Worth (2012), O’Faolain’s Boy (2014), Champ (2020)
    • Champion Hurdle – Punjabi (2009), Jezki (2014), Buveur D’Air (2018), Epatante (2020)
  • Three Wins
    • Coral Cup – Sky’s The Limit (2006), Spirit River (2010), Dame De Compagnie (2020)
    • Pertemps Final – Inching Closer (2003), Sire Du Berlais (2019, 2020)
  • Two Wins
    • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Kicking King (2005), Bobs Worth (2013)
    • County Handicap Hurdle – Spirit Leader (2003), Saint Roi (2020)
    • Festival Trophy Handicap Chase – Youlneverwalkalone (2003), The Druids Nephew (2015)
    • Stayers’ Hurdle – Iris’s Gift (2004), More Of That (2014)
  • One Win
    • Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle – Simonsig (2012)
    • Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase – Finger Onthe Pulse (2008)
    • Champion Bumper – Cork All Star (2007)
    • Golden Miller Novices’ Chase – Defi Du Seuil (2019)
    • Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase – Le Prezien (2018)
    • Ryanair Chase – Riverside Theatre (2012)
    • Spa Novices’ Hurdle – Bobs Worth (2012)

Sir Anthony McCoy – 31 Wins

Chart That Shows Tony McCoy's Cheltenham Festival Wins by Year Between 1996 and 2015

Better known to most as A.P. McCoy, Sir Anthony McCoy was named the champion jockey every year of his 20 seasons in horse racing. That gives you a sense of just how talented he was, even if that talent didn’t necessarily translate over to the Cheltenham Festival. That isn’t to say that he under-performed at Presbury Park, of course. He was top jockey twice, winning the Gold Cup in 1997 on Mr Mulligan and then again in 2012 on Synchronised. He also won the Champion Hurdle three times, as well as the Champion Chase once.

Considering he won his first race in 1996 thanks to Kibreet’s success in the Grand Annual, you might be surprised to learn that he was still riding horses 19 years later. He signed off his career with another Festival win, with Uxizandre tasting victory in the Ryanair Chase in 2015. Despite all of his success, perhaps no moment in his career was as iconic as when he managed to rouse Wichita Lineman to cross the line in first place in the 2009 Festival Plate, winning the race with little room for error ahead of second place.

  • Three Wins
    • Arkle Challenge Trophy – Or Royal (1997), Champleve (1998), Well Chief (2004)
    • Champion Hurdle – Make A Stand (1997), Brave Inca (2006), Binocular (2010)
    • Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase – Kibreet (1996), Edredon Bleu (1998), Alderwood (2013)
    • Ryanair Chase – Albertas Run (2010, 2011), Uxizandre (2015)
    • Spa Novices’ Hurdle – Black Jack Ketchum (2006), Wichita Lineman (2007), At Fishers Cross (2013)
  • Two Wins
    • Cathcart Challenge Cup – Cyfor Malta (1998), Royal Auclair (2002)
    • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Mr Mulligan (1997), Synchronised (2012)
    • County Handicap Hurdle – Blowing Wind (1998), Alderwood (2012)
    • Golden Miller Novices’ Chase – Noble Prince (2011), Taquin Du Seuil (2014)
  • One Win
    • Broadway Novices’ Chase – Albertas Run (2008)
    • Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase – Reveillez (2006)
    • Champion Bumper – Liberman (2003)
    • Festival Trophy Handicap Chase – Wichita Lineman (2009)
    • Pertemps Final – Unsinkable Boxer (1998)
    • Plate Handicap Chase – Majadou (1999)
    • Queen Mother Champion Chase – Edredon Bleu (2000)
    • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Hors La Loi III (1999)

Paul Townend – 28 Wins

Chart That Shows Paul Townend's Cheltenham Festival Wins by Year Between 2011 and 2023

Paul Townend is an Irish jockey who has a long standing association with Cheltenham’s all-time leading trainer, Willie Mullins, who he started his career with as an apprentice flat jockey. Townend’s first ride for Mullins came in a 1m 1f Ballinrobe maiden in May of 2007 where he finished 3rd. Townend begin riding over jumps in June 2008, again finishing 3rd in a Handicap Hurdle at Listowel for trainer Gerard Cully.

Townend’s career over jumps for Willie Mullins didn’t get off to the best start, falling on Derrymore Dawn in a 3m Handicap Hurdle at Galway in August of 2008. His first winners over jumps for Mullins came at Punchestown in the November of 2008, completing a double with Freds Benefit and Imperial Hills. Townend finished tenth in the jockeys championship in his first jumps season, fourth in his second season and was Champion Irish National Hunt Jockey for the first time in 2010/11, his third season.

It was at the end of this stellar third season when Paul Townend picked up his first race victory at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle with What A Charm who was trained by Arthur Moore. He had to wait until 2015 for his second Festival win with Glens Melody in the Mares’ Hurdle for Willie Mullins. This race is probably best known for the other Mullins runner, 1/2 favourite Annie Power, falling under jockey Ruby Walsh at the final hurdle when four lengths clear.

Paul Townend was Willie Mullins’ second string jockey behind Ruby Walsh between 2010 and 2019. Despite Walsh getting first pick of the runners, Townend still managed ten winners in that time, eight for Mullins, and one for Rebecca Curtis to add to his first win for Arthur Moore. These victories included a first Gold Cup for both himself and Willie Mullins with Al Boum Photo in 2019.

Since Walsh retired in May of 2019, Paul Townend has stepped into the limelight as the Closutton yard’s top jockey. In the four Cheltenham Festivals since, Townend has added 18 winners to his tally and been named the meeting’s top jockey on three occasions.

  • 3 Wins
    • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Al Boum Photo (2019, 2020), Galopin Des Champs (2023)
    • County Handicap Hurdle – Wicklow Brave (2015), Arctic Fire (2017), State Man (2022)
    • Triumph Hurdle – Burning Victory (2020), Vauban (2022), Lossiemouth (2023)
  • 2 Wins
    • Arkle Challenge Trophy – Duc Des Genievres (2019), El Fabiolo (2023)
    • Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle – Sir Gerhard (2022), Impaire Et Passe (2023)
    • Queen Mother Champion Chase – Energumene (2022, 2023)
    • Ryanair Chase – Min (2020), Allaho (2022)
    • Spa Novices’ Hurdle – Penhill (2017), Monkfish (2020)
  • 1 Win
    • Broadway Novices’ Chase – Monkfish (2021)
    • Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase – Irish Cavalier (2015)
    • Champion Bumper – Ferny Hollow (2020)
    • David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle – Glens Melody (2015)
    • Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Laurina (2018)
    • Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – What A Charm (2011)
    • Liberthine Mares’ Chase – Colreevy (2021)
    • Stayers’ Hurdle – Penhill (2018)
    • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Appreciate It (2021)

Pat Taaffe – 25 Wins

Chart That Shows Pat Taaffe's Cheltenham Festival Wins by Year Between 1953 and 1970

Sometimes, a jockey gets lucky to be associated with a particular horse. Walsh had it with both Quevega and Big Buck’s, but well before that came his countryman Pat Taaffe. Taaffe was riding Arkle for all three of his Gold Cup wins between 1964 and 1966. That would have been enough to cement his place in the record books, but the nine-time Irish champion jockey had far more in his locker than just winning the most prestigious event in jumps racing. The fact that he won so many races in the days before the Festival had a fourth day speaks volumes for the man.

He won the Queen Mother Champion Chase five times, managing twice with Fortria in 1960 and 1961, then with Ben Stack in 1964, Flyingbolt two years later and then one more win with Straight Fort in 1970. That is a tally for that race matched only by Barry Geraghty. It wasn’t just the Gold Cup that Taaffe enjoyed success in with Arkle, also winning the Irish Grand National, the King George VI Chase and the Hennessy Gold Cup. Even so, it will forever be the blue riband event that Taaffe with be associated with.

  • Five Wins
    • Broadway Novices’ Chase – Coneyburrow (1953), Solfen (1960), Grallagh Cnoc (1961), Arkle (1963), Proud Tarquin (1970)
    • Queen Mother Champion Chase – Fortria (1960, 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Straight Fort (1970)
  • Four Wins
    • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Arkle (1964, 1965, 1966), Fort Leney (1968)
  • Three Wins
    • Arkle Challenge Trophy – Mountcashel King (1961), Ben Stack (1963), Flyingbolt (1965)
    • Cathcart Challenge Cup – Royal Approach (1954), Muir (1968), Garynagree (1970)
  • Two Wins
    • Festival Trophy Handicap Chase – Sentina (1957), Arkloin (1966)
    • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Stroller (1954), Flyingbolt (1964)
  • One Win
    • County Handicap Hurdle – Teapot II (1953)

Davy Russell – 25 Wins

Chart That Shows Davy Russell's Cheltenham Festival Wins by Year Between 2006 and 2023

If we’re going to talk about Pat Taaffe then it is only right that we also mention Davy Russell. Best-known away from Prestbury Park thanks to his wins on the back of Tiger Roll in the Grand National, Russell enjoyed his fair share of Cheltenham Festival winners over the years. His first Festival win came in 2006 when Native Jack won the Cross Country Chase; the race that Tiger Roll would go on to win three times without Russell. He went on to ride at least one winner every year until 2019, so it’s little wonder that he’s so well-respected.

He won the Gold Cup with Lord Windermere in 2014, but his list of Festival winners reads like a list of the races that you’d expect the see each year. Everything from the Coral Cup to the Triumph Hurdle via the Ryanair Chase and the Grand Annual Chase are on his list, with the Queen Mother Champion Chase being the only obvious big race that eluded him. His last Festival winner came in 2020, with Chosen Mate winning the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase as one of three winners for him that year. Having come out of retirement to ride in the 2023 festival, Russell failed to add to his tally but did finish second in six races.

  • Three Wins
    • Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle – First Lieutenant (2011), Windsor Park (2015), Envoi Allen (2020)
    • Broadway Novices’ Chase – Weapons Amnesty (2010), Lord Windermere (2013), Presenting Percy (2018)
    • Coral Cup – Naiad Du Missleot (2008), Carlito Brigante (2011), Diamond King (2016)
    • Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase – Tiger Cry (2008), Savello (2014), Chosen Mate (2020)
    • Pertemps Final – Mall Dini (2016), Presenting Percy (2017), Delta Work (2018)
  • Two Wins
    • Cross Country Chase – Native Jack (2006), Rivage D’Or (2015)
    • Golden Miller Novices’ Chase – Sir Des Champs (2012), Samcro (2020)
  • One Win
    • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Lord Windermere (2014)
    • Festival Trophy Handicap Chase – Joes Edge (2007)
    • Plate Handicap Chase – The Storyteller (2018)
    • Ryanair Chase – Balko Des Flos (2018)
    • Spa Novices’ Hurdle – Weapon’s Amnesty (2009)
    • Triumph Hurdle – Tiger Roll (2014)