Is the Jockey or the Horse More Important in Horse Racing?

min read
A horse and jockey on a racetrack.
BetMGM @BETMGM Jun 21, 2022, 10:08 AM

Betting on horse races is undoubtedly one of the most popular forms of online sports betting. But for you to come away a winner, it’s worth bearing in mind that horse racing is one of those sports that requires quite a bit of intel and research.

There are many aspects to consider when it comes to horse racing betting, and you’ll find a plethora of horse race betting tips and advice that can help you to choose the best horse racing betting odds for your wager. 

You’ll need to factor in the type of track that the race will be run on and how the horse normally fares on it, what length the race is, the predicted weather and much more. Of course, the most important consideration when betting on horse racing is the actual horse that’s running and the jockey who’s riding it.

In this article, we’re going to talk about one of the biggest questions that comes up when selecting the right horse racing odds and bets: Is the horse or the jockey more important?

What the horse brings to the track

Of course, the horse is – first and foremost – the “vehicle” upon which a race is going to be won or lost. An average horse is simply not going to win the Kentucky Derby. It’s got to be able to run! There are a number of things that a good horse will bring to the table:


Speed is one of the most important aspects of any good racehorse and without it, it isn’t going to stand a chance in a race. This is why a horse that might be good at hacking or cross-country is not necessarily a good fit for the track. Racehorses are bred for their speed and ability on the course; their parents are carefully selected to produce a foal that has the best of their qualities, especially when it comes to how fast they can run.


Some of the fastest racehorses out there never make it further than the first couple of races. When we talk about fitness here, we mean susceptibility to injury. A horse that is genetically predisposed to injuries simply won’t cut it on the track. It will run in a few races, get injured, have to rest and then start training from the beginning all over again.


It’s not always the quickest out of the gate that pips the post in horse racing so the endurance of a horse is hugely important. You might have a horse that can run at full pace for 75% of the race but loses steam coming around the last corner. This is why having a horse that is able to run at the top of its ability for the entire race is hugely important, even if that’s at different speeds.

Intelligence and temperament

It’s important for a horse to have a strong personality in horse racing. They should display a need to want to work for their rider and ultimately win the race. A horse that enjoys country walks and grazing in the meadow is best suited for recreational use rather than competition. That being said, there are some pretty headstrong horses out there, but if they’re too stubborn they won’t make good racehorses. A horse needs to be willing to listen to its jockey and implement the commands that it receives in a race. One that’s too busy fighting its rider on the track simply won’t be successful.

What does the jockey do?

Jockeys are incredibly important in a horse race and without a good rider, it’s unlikely that a good horse will win. This is because they act as the steering wheel and gears for a horse during a race. Think about a Formula One car and how well it would do if it had an average driver – it probably wouldn’t place. These are the most important things that jockeys do during a race:

Control speed

A horse’s speed during a race needs to be carefully controlled and a good jockey knows how to work the animal to its strengths. They know how fast the horse needs to come out the gate, set the pace for the race and know how to conserve the horse’s energy for a late push. Without a good jockey’s control, it’s highly likely that a horse topping out its speed at the beginning of a race won’t finish strong.

Direct the horse

Even the most intelligent horses are unlikely to know the right things to do to win a race while they are running it (especially in a steeplechase.) The jockey is there to watch the other competitors, think about when to push, when to tap back and when to run into gaps that have been left by another horse. They will get the horse into inside-rail positions and know when the time is right to overtake the rest of the field during the race. Importantly, they can also spot dangerous situations and help their ride to avoid falling or crashing into other horses on the track.

Apply strategy

Another massive thing that the jockey brings to the table is their ability to apply a strategy to the race. In the weeks before the fixture takes place, they’ll study the competition – both their rival jockeys and their horses – and take note of any strengths to be wary of and any weaknesses that they can exploit during the race. This will help them form a plan and create tactics that will help them to cross the finish line first.

Which is more important: Horse or jockey?

As you can see, both the horse and the jockey are of utmost importance when it comes to winning a horse race, and it’s important to consider them both when deciding on your bets. The horse brings the speed and agility, while the jockey can get the best out of them on the track with the proper control, direction and tactics. A bad horse with a good jockey won’t win a race… and vice versa!

Ultimately, the determining factor in winning a race will be the relationship that the jockey and the horse have, as well as the trust between the two.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.