Ryan Moore has a reputation for being curt and intense on the racecourse but at home the three-times champion jockey is more relaxed
Ryan Moore opens the door to his modest house on the eastern fringe of Newmarket looking as though he’s just been dragged through a wind tunnel.
On this Tuesday morning his hair, normally flat against his head, rises up in randomly dishevelled tufts. It’s not how he appears at the races, when he is invariably well turned out, but this is the other side to a jockey who divides opinion like no other since Lester Piggott.
This is Moore at his leisure. He is out of the spotlight, insulated from demands on his time. The mask of inscrutability he dons on racedays is not in place.
His appearance results from having just ridden out four lots, the first of them in temperatures of -5 degrees. And that’s without factoring in Newmarket’s brutal wind-chill, or that Moore has just flown back from Dubai’s desert heat.
That latter detail is especially relevant, because Moore, 29, is the first of an emerging new breed. Both by his schedule and in his outlook, he is a truly international jockey.
He is the product of a sport where the best horses now travel extensively, in the process exposing riders to the merits of big races far distant from Britain’s shores. His views have evolved accordingly.
I didn’t beat the best when I won my first championship so it wasn’t a really big deal
Moore plainly likes Britain, wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else, but he’s not prepared to recite the mantra that British racing is the best in the world. He believes we have many of the best horses, but that’s a different matter entirely.
Ed Dunlop is of similar hue. One of the younger breed of trainers prepared to travel horses far and wide, Dunlop is adamant races like the Melbourne Cup and Dubai World Cup generate infinitely more global publicity than our own.
Indeed, the two men have combined to telling effect on foreign fields. In November 2010, Moore rode the Dunlop-trained Snow Fairy to win the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup in Japan – a month later they captured the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin. In 2011, Moore and Snow Fairy landed their second Commemorative Cup.
“I would always hope to ride here as long as I was riding some of the best horses,” Moore says, “but racing is big in Japan. I rode there for seven weeks after the Melbourne Cup (in November last year).
“It’s about the most alien place in the world: you have to eat the local food, all the signs are in a different language and no-one speaks English. Even though they try to help you as much as they can, it wasn’t easy.
“You might as well be on a different planet, but you go to ride good horses. There was a Group 1 race every weekend I was there and I’d definitely go back. At that time of year you’re not going to ride a better class of horse anywhere else in the world.”
Moore returned to Britain on Christmas Day, since when he has commuted to Dubai four or five times during the carnival. That, however, was not so rewarding.
“It used to be great but now there’s a lack of good horses unless you’re riding for Godolphin or [Mike] de Kock,” he says. “It doesn’t really pay to go there. You’re hoping to take a horse through to World Cup night but owners are there on holiday with their horses, really.”
Moore’s easy familiarity with racing abroad emphasises he has broader horizons than his weighing-room predecessors. In consequence, he has little interest in what has preoccupied parochial minds for decades.
This causes him complications. It is why some of his responses to routine media questions can raise eyebrows and hackles asunder. Above all, it is an important distinction to recognise ahead of any conversation with him.
The more he converses, the more evident it becomes that Moore’s take on the game is purely about the horses. Or to be more precise, the big horses in the big races. Not for him the business of chalking up personal milestones or crunching career numbers, as it was for those before him.
As much is evident by his lack of animation over the British jockeys’ title, which he has won three times. It would have been more but for injuries, yet there is no sense of loss.
The roots of his ambivalence probably trace back to his first triumph in 2006. It felt like a hollow victory.
“It wasn’t a really big deal,” Moore recalls. “Frankie [Dettori] and Hughsie weren’t trying and Kieren [Fallon] was away in Ireland, so I didn’t beat the best. I didn’t feel I should be winning the championship at that stage anyway.”
At that time Moore had just turned 23 and had benefited from his father’s experience as a jockey-turned-trainer. Gary Moore and his family are closely knit. He himself was the son of a car salesman-turned-trainer who understood the game’s perils, having operated at its blue-collar face for much of his life.
The eldest of four children, Ryan was first into the yard and first into the saddle. His debut winner actually came over jumps at Towcester: on that day, aged 16, he weighed out at 8st 10lb and would have followed his father into the jump jockey ranks had he not stopped growing.
Even then, his mother Jayne harboured reservations. She encouraged him to continue his education beyond his GCSEs but the lure of the saddle proved too strong.
“I started doing my A-Levels but I was riding out in the morning and going racing on some afternoons,” Moore reflects. “I was only doing half of both jobs so it just felt better to get on with the riding.
“When you’re young you are in too much of a rush anyway. You see other people riding winners and think, ‘I can do a better job.’ Looking back, it would have been lovely to have had a few A-Levels, a longer education. It turns out there was no rush; it just felt like it back then.”
That’s when his father’s wisdom kicked in. With Moore’s weight having stabilised, Gary called Richard Hannon to enrol his son with the Wiltshire trainer. Hannon’s yard was expanding quickly: there would be plenty of rides if Moore could cut it.
“I was there at 18 and had great fun,” the jockey reflects in obviously fond tones. “I hardly rode in the first year, the second year was better and then I rode a lot of winners very quickly after I rode out my claim, which was a big help to me.”
It was just as his father envisaged. Moore made light of the perilous period young jockeys must confront when they lose their claim. Hannon’s winner machine rendered that period academic.
“I got on very well with him,” Moore says of Hannon. “He wasn’t a hard man at all; he’d give you the odd bit of advice but he was very relaxed. Dad wouldn’t be one to stand and shout either, and that suited me.”
A great deal in racing is down to circumstance, as was Moore’s apparently seamless ascent to the very top flight.
The year after his first jockeys’ title saw Richard Hughes’s tenure as Khalid Abdullah’s retained jockey draw to a close. As Hughes increasingly gravitated towards Hannon, whose daughter Lizzie he’d married, Moore found opportunity with Sir Michael Stoute. The two formalised their association at the end of 2007.
By then Moore had already decided to ride sparingly. “It’s just crazy to go knocking yourself around the whole time,” he says. “You have to be ready to do the job on a Saturday afternoon. You have to do as well as you can every day but you must be prepared for the big races. It’s more of a mental thing.”
The same applies to Moore’s personal arrangements. The sponsors he embraced make relatively little demand on his time beyond the saddle, which he guards jealously – not least because he dotes on his two children, Toby and Sophie.
His relationship with Amlin, specialists in thoroughbred insurance, is a case in point. “I’ve been with them for a few years now,” he says. “They call on me a couple of times a year and the company is a help to me anyway when it comes to insurance.”
Much about Moore at home comes in stark contrast to his racecourse demeanour. He is attentive and courteous, the very qualities he is accused of lacking when wearing his game-face. Initially shy, he is soon willing to engage practically any question. It is a long way from a po-faced racing façade that can drive the sport’s promoters to despair.
In the middle of Glorious Goodwood last year, Moore took umbrage when a journalist criticised him for not giving an interview to a satellite racing channel. Moore took to his Betfair column to offer his side of the story – whereupon all manner of postings lit up the associated chatroom.
“That was just a bit of fun,” he says with a smile.
Was he aware of the strident response from the public, both for and against his stance? “I was. A couple of them were forwarded on to me.”
Didn’t he read them for himself on the site? “No.” Another smile. “I was just surprised at the response, really. I gather it was half for and half against.”
And his take on the media, with whom he is perceived to be on permanent war footing? “I feel I can get on with most of the regular racing writers,” he says. “They are fine, although one or two are too nosy, wanting to know my business when they should know better.”
It’s a little-known fact that Moore’s grandfather (on his mother’s side) was a journalist. “He retired a while ago but he still does some writing,” Moore says. “He was always keen for one of us to work as a commentator on the BBC but I was never interested in that sort of thing.”
One contemporary for whom a media career would be second nature is Frankie Dettori, who will endeavour to resurrect his career on imminent completion of his six-month ban. Moore is unsure what the future holds for Dettori.
“I really don’t know,” he says. “Frankie still has the ability but he is not getting any younger and might have different priorities with his family now. I’m sure lots of people will want to use him and I suppose it depends on how things drop for him. He will need to get back in the swing, although I don’t agree when people say he needs to make a fast start.”
Talking of jockeys, the wooden rocking-horse in Moore’s sitting room – bedecked in the number cloth worn by Moore’s 2010 Derby winner Workforce – suggests four-year-old Toby has designs on following in father’s footsteps.
“I’d be happy provided he could do it at the right level,” Moore says. “Obviously it’s been great for me but you see others struggle and I don’t want that for him. My brothers and I were brought up on the yard but I’d like Toby to have other options, starting with a full education.”
Like mother, like son. The wheel has turned full circle for three successive generations of Moores. Toby must be long odds-on to make it four.
‘I’d take a victory in the Kentucky Derby over the 2,000 Guineas’
“It’s not the Derby, is it?” That was Ryan Moore’s response to an excited television interviewer after he had just won the Oaks aboard Snow Fairy in 2010.
To many, his appraisal was as astonishing as it was unwarranted. If Moore barely cared about winning a British Classic, why should anyone else?
Yet Moore insists he has no cause to regret those words. “Yes,” he maintains. “I stand by what I said.” He then explains why.
“Everyone makes a big deal about the Classics, much bigger than I think they deserve. Races like the Eclipse, King George, Juddmonte and Champion Stakes are more important. That’s my opinion. To me, riding a Classic winner doesn’t measure up to riding the winner of one of those races.”
And the Derby? “The Derby is different,” he says. “It’s a massive race, but the Classics here are like they are in America – the Kentucky Derby is big but is anyone really bothered about the Preakness?
“It’s the same with the Breeders’ Cup: we get excited about the Mile but it’s all about the Classic. Same with the Dubai World Cup: there are some tremendous supporting races on that night but the World Cup is the one that matters.”
Moore is not being contrary, either. Some time later I venture there are some big races he has yet to win.
“Yes,” he replies. “The Kentucky Derby, the Melbourne Cup, the Japan Cup and the Dubai World Cup. Those are the four.”
And what of the 2,000 Guineas and St Leger, neither of which he has yet annexed? “The 2,000 Guineas is massively important from a breeding point of view. I’d like to win it, obviously, but I’d prefer to win the others first.
“Racing is a global game and the four races I mentioned are the most important in their countries,” he continues. “The Melbourne Cup is arguably becoming the biggest race in the world these days; rightly or wrongly I’m not sure.
“You feel the buzz when you go there but I’d be more of a purist. If I could only win one, I’d like it to be the Kentucky Derby. It’s a really amazing race.
“I’d love to sit on a horse that could jump and had the speed to go with those 22 runners into that first turn. It is probably the most unrealistic of the four races to think I could win, but I’d take it over the 2,000 Guineas.”
Much though it may baffle domestically- oriented minds, here speaks a man grown accustomed to international racing.