Monday 24 October 2016

Pursuit of excellence sets Ryan Moore apart

Ryan Moore's epic week is one that will be spoken about for a very long time

Ian McClean

Published 21/06/2015 | 02:30

Ryan Moore
Ryan Moore

There is a memorable line from comedian Eddie Izzard at an early live performance in San Francisco where he taunts the audience with an introduction declaring, "I grew up in Europe . . . where the history comes from."

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Ah yes, history. It takes some time apparently.

Last week the Queen and various other dignitaries gathered to celebrate the signing of the Magna Carta, sealed some 800 years ago at Runnymede. It is somewhat curious, then, that following that ancient template for the creation of equality among men, the rest of the week should have been spent just down the road acclaiming inequality among horses.

Royal Ascot may be some 500 years younger than Magna Carta but it still possesses enough historical girth to make it irresistible for insiders and outsiders alike.

Ryan Moore wrote his own paragraph of history by winning more races at the meeting than any jockey in the modern era, although not yet Fred Archer, surpassing the figure of eight posted previously by Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery - and by the end of the fourth day.

Much has been written already in this column about Moore's prowess, but a couple of subtler observations emerged through his exploits last week. Earlier this season at the Newmarket Guineas meeting, in spite of winning both the colts and fillies classic Moore was still exercised about getting beaten on Telescope in the Jockey Club Stakes. In parallel, despite War Envoy's thrilling last-gasp victory in the Britannia on Thursday, Moore was still mentally kicking himself over Kingfisher in the Gold Cup less than an hour earlier. John Steinbeck's observation that "it is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him" is never more true than when the greatness is expected of self, and while this ruthless commitment to excellence is the hallmark of all champions it is pointedly more so of Moore in the context of the weigh-room.

Sometimes the relentless pursuit of excellence, unchecked, can result in a paralysing fear of failure so it was very interesting to read champion jockey Richard Hughes' interpretation of Moore's supremacy as being "not afraid to lose". Meaning that in all cases he gives his mount the best possible chance of winning in spite of the risks. "If he has a bad draw he's brave and wise enough to drop in, head the shortest way, and take a view that if it happens it happens."

Moore is frequently accused of being irascible by the media, but a less trumpeted facet of Moore's character is his loyalty to connections and it was demonstrated last week by his allegiance to Michael Stoute's Cannock Chase in Wednesday's featured Group 1 Prince of Wales when he could have ridden The Grey Gatsby. Who knows whether the price of loyalty in this instance could have been a Group 1 winner. It is hard to believe Moore is still only 27, and was riding only seven seasons on from his first Royal Ascot winner. He has a long way to go to overtake Lester Piggott's remarkable 116 tally at this prestigious fixture but, all things being equal, he has a long time to get there.

Moore's success was aided and abetted by another history-maker in Aidan O'Brien, and the leading jockey was quick to nominate Gleneagles as his undoubted highlight in the St James' Palace. I have rarely seen the Master of Ballydoyle more relaxed at a major race meeting - perhaps it is owing to the fact that after nearly two decades at the helm he has finally mastered the art of delegation. "I'm getting older now and the younger lads are coming through. I only look on. I just stand at the top of the gallops and watch the work, which is good for me and a lot less pressure."

His demeanour last week was in sharp contrast to his first winner at the meeting, Harbour Master in the Coventry in 1997, when in the company of a very seasoned Christy Roche at a post-race press briefing I remarked at the time how the round-bespectacled O'Brien had all the comfort then of a student sitting his Irish oral. But fluency has come with the flow of winners in the intervening years and he is rapidly closing in on the Royal record of the legendary, lamented Henry Cecil who registered 75 wins over a span of 42 years. O'Brien has added significantly to his 43 at the start of the week and accomplished it in less than two decades.

His fear about getting old makes us only hope that, now a degenerating 45, he might be able to still hang in there for just a couple more years. Ascot 2015 might not have been an equine vintage - the Gold Cup on Thursday as an example was a distinctly ordinary renewal - but if history is measured equally by the thoroughbred's trainers and jockeys, then it was certainly a champion week for the history-makers.

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