Wednesday 13 December 2017

Real words of wisdom carry weight with Moore

Ryan Moore is looking forward to a successful Irish Champions Weekend. Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Ascot
Ryan Moore is looking forward to a successful Irish Champions Weekend. Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Ascot

Johnny Ward

Roy Keane beautifully assaulted the bulls**t of the First World when asked last week if he would be concerned about the Irish players' purportedly gruelling trip to Georgia.

"We're on a private plane," he said. "It's not torture."

Similarities abound between the Man United great and Ryan Moore, even if one seems to love a microphone a lot more.

When I put it to Moore recently in the opulence of the Merrion Hotel that jockeys had a tough life, he countered: "Tell that to someone laid off with a mortgage and kids to feed.

"Nobody owes you anything in life, you have to go out and do it for yourself. It is tough for many people."

Moore's reluctance to do interviews belies how compelling he is in them. It is, for example, inconceivable, unlike Frankie Dettori, that he will ever be part of the excruciating love-in that is A Question of Sport.

He approaches the fourth Irish Champions Weekend wallowing in the knowledge that he rides for Aidan O'Brien and coming to Dublin to help launch it, free of charge, is part of what he sees as his responsibility.

Before horses, we discuss both racing and life issues, though he's relieved that he misheard me ask about "wage increases" when it was weight increases that entered the conversation. On that point, like so many, he knows what he thinks is right.

"People are getting bigger and Ireland is probably the best place in the world (to increase minimum jockey weights). Every jockey, short of counting on one hand, would be in favour.

"You look at the US, weights are ridiculously low. If (the British or Irish medical officers) saw what the American lads do, they'd be having kittens."

One would expect him to be indifferent about the furore over racing continuing at the Curragh during its redevelopment - far from it.

Beautiful

"Leopardstown has a lovely track for seven to 10 furlongs, but the mile-and-a-half start isn't in a good spot. They have no five-furlong track and the six-furlong track is not ideal.

"Leopardstown is a great facility and a beautiful ground; as an actual racecourse, the Curragh has everything right. I thought the Derby worked very well. It didn't feel any different to the old Curragh, with the same faces around.

"The thing is, when people were told they can't go racing, maybe they wanted to go because they were told they couldn't. "But with the quality in Ireland, you just couldn't run every race at Leopardstown."

He speaks quietly, with purpose, without imposing. Long before Richard Hannon told the teetotal teenager that he'd be no good unless he took a drink, he was quite an adept footballer in his home town of Brighton - but, he soon stresses, no more than that.

"I was a worker, technically not good enough, technically deficient. I would play on the wing, but I was better at full-back when utilised there.

"From the age of four or five I was playing Sunday League. Becoming a jockey only became a reality in my late teens."

As a son of trainer Gary and brother of other jockeys, including Jamie, it seemed inevitable, and Ryan was small enough to make it on the Flat.

After a great time, about which he reminisces with fondness, at Hannon's he ended up as Michael Stoute's first rider and is still an ally of the veteran even if the latter's firepower has not been what it was.

"Michael is as hungry as he has ever been, with plenty to look forward to, plenty to keep him occupied. He's always very motivated and I'm riding for him for about 12 years. He was a massive influence on my career, I wouldn't be anywhere without him."

There was one issue or other with Ballydoyle's retained rider at some point for many years. Kinane, Spencer, Fallon and O'Brien Jnr had the post, but nobody seems to have adapted as seamlessly as Moore. However, unlike the others, he is neither full-time nor based in Ireland.

"Look, I'm very lucky. Riding for Aidan for about nine years now has just been a pleasure from day one.

"There's probably nobody ever better at his job and everyone knows how dedicated he is. It's honestly a privilege to ride for him. I'm very lucky to work with him for that length of time."

What is O'Brien like in defeat?

"Always a gent."

Are there some races you lost for him you maybe didn't get right?

"Loads."

Rivals

moore is set to steer Churchill in the Champion Stakes on Saturday and he seems to have fewer viable rivals with every passing day - Winter in the Matron, Gustav Klimt in the National Stakes, perhaps Clemmie in the Moyglare and Order Of St George in the Leger. Not bad.

"Winter's won four Group Ones on the spin and not many do that. She seems to handle all conditions at the moment and until she gets beaten we will keep on thinking she is very good. A mile-and-a-half is even possible.

"How would I compare her to Minding? Minding was a slightly different shape, a different way of doing things,

"Winter is bigger, stronger. She is a real bully in ways. A mile, 10, hard, soft, whatever - a powerful filly. Minding was beautiful, but they are different.

"Gustav Klimt is a lovely two-year-old, a good cruiser with a turn of foot and great attitude. It's remarkable what he did at Newmarket."

The future is now for this rider, husband and father.

"God knows where I'd be if I wasn't a jockey, I don't want to think about.

"I hope I don't have to train horses. I hope I can ride for a good few years yet. Hopefully I will not have to do too much after riding."

And then there's a grin. Life is good.

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