Since there can be no definitive answer as to who the best jockey in the world is, it’s ultimately a futile query to pitch, except that any answer other than Ryan Moore is probably wrong. Watching the Englishman ride this season is to watch a supreme sporting talent at the peak of their powers.
Last Saturday’s Derby success on Auguste Rodin felt like a microcosm of those abilities. But under huge expectation, Moore’s ride was most of all a mini-masterclass of flint-eyed calculation that delivered Aidan O’Brien’s star his optimal shot at racing immortality.
It wasn’t some spectacular spin almost impossible to imagine anyone else delivering, such as Piggott lifting Roberto to Derby glory in 1972. Nor did it in a single stroke shake Dettori’s status as perhaps the most naturally gifted of all.
It has to be factored too how all jockeys’ fortunes are irrevocably linked to the quality of talent underneath them so it didn’t hurt that Auguste Rodin proved himself perhaps the most valuable racehorse on the planet right now.
But the pecking order of elite riders has always been decided by who delivers when it counts most. Excuses are cheap and in a context of the jockey always being the easiest to blame for defeat. In such circumstances riding to not lose rather than to win is a temptation that Moore almost always resists.
It has helped make him No. 1 to O’Brien and the Coolmore operation for eight years. That’s longer than every other predecessor in racing’s hottest of hotseats where commercial imperatives make for a pressure-cooker atmosphere.
Also in the mix is innate horsemanship, renowned professionalism, and a personal reserve that chimes with the Coolmore partnership’s more Trappist instincts.
What’s singular about Moore right now though is how his high-speed computation on the back of a horse translates so readily. He brings a rare global perspective to barstool debates about the world’s best.
He’s hardly the first international jockey. Mick Kinane once argued that winning at the highest level in different jurisdictions is the supreme test of any rider and backed it up with pioneering successes through the 1990s.
However, Moore’s policy of “have saddle – will travel” means clamour for his services is unmatched around the racing world.
Parochial preferences apply from Tipperary to Tokyo. Irad Ortiz is currently top dog in the US. James McDonald is Australia’s top ‘hoop’. But a bulging international CV proves Moore’s ability to transcend them. All too often, and wherever he goes, he’s the one to beat and acknowledged as such.
Australian distrust of visiting riders is notorious, replete with stereotypes of effete Europeans out of place and out of their depth.
But Moore’s reputation Down Under is such that a flying visit to Sydney in March for the famous Golden Slipper produced barely a puff of flak, noted as nothing out of the ordinary apart from the mileage involved.
He won too, adding to previous career victories in the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate, leaving just the Caulfield Cup to win among Australia’s “Majors”.
In 2018 Hong Kong trainer John Size’s decision to opt for Moore rather than stay local yielded a spectacular Derby triumph there on Ping Hai Star. Little short of adulation greets Moore on regular Japanese trips that have yielded huge success over the years, including a pair of Japan Cup victories.
It’s an international perspective cultivated by a figure whose appetite for riding good horses in good races means his name is in the conversation no matter where, what time of the year, or what part of the world.
In deciding who’s tops that might be as decisive a verdict as is possible in the circumstances.
The Coolmore job means Moore is a regular presence in Ireland. For the last two evenings he has been in action at Leopardstown and the Curragh. Remarkably, that regularity means he’s at the top of Ireland’s jockey rankings this season in terms of winners ridden.
A championship tilt is unlikely to interest the former triple-British champion who has long since been motivated by quality rather than quantity. The upshot for Irish race-fans though is frequent opportunity to watch a sporting virtuoso at work, and probably for some time to come.
At 39, Moore is at an age where flat jockeys traditionally peak. Vintage big-race spins such as on Luxembourg in last month’s Tattersalls Gold Cup mean his standing with Coolmore’s brass could hardly be higher. Memories of 2020 when bookies were betting on his successor seem very distant.
Inevitably, the vicissitudes of race-riding mean a swing in popular opinion is rarely more than one clanger of a ride away. No one is immune from a short-head verdict going the wrong way. Neither prospect is likely to trouble someone so famously self-contained when it comes to the public aspects of his job.
But as of now, it’s hard not get all popular Danish lager when it comes to identifying Moore as the world’s best jockey – probably.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
Punchestown has the Irish focus to itself on Saturday and THE SHORT GO (4.15) can emerge on top of a conditions hurdle. He looks the unknown quantity among some well-exposed types and could hardly have won his maiden hurdle any easier at Killarney last month.
Tomorrow’s final leg of the US Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, is off just after midnight and at 1½ miles half represents something of a marathon in American terms. It could be just what the doctor ordered for TAPIT TRICE (12.02) who doesn’t do much very quickly but is likely to be staying on when it counts. It also helps his sire has had four previous Belmont winners.