Ryan Moore: Behind the media-shy jockey hides a comic talent

He’s publicity shy, and often dour, but in private the world’s top jockey is an accomplished mimic

Any profile of Ryan Moore is obliged to mention his distaste for the media game. So check to that, and of course to the ubiquitous tag of "world's best jockey". But, there are those who will also tell you that the Englishman is, apparently, a rather good mimic.

That’s about as revelatory as this gets I’m afraid; that behind Moore’s dour public exterior may lurk a private sense of humour. Who knew?

And the question Moore would probably ask in response, is why anyone would want to know?

What has supposedly being able to ‘do’ his Coolmore employers, or trainer Aidan O’Brien, got to do with what he is paid to do, which is riding winners? And the only answer is nothing.


Except, in the communication age, public curiosity about high-profile sporting figures is even more unavoidable than it used be, as is the keenness of many of those same figures to manipulate that nosiness, and their own profile, to best advantage.

Frankie Dettori has turned it into profitable pizza, maintaining a cuddly image despite a six-month drugs ban in 2013. Even Tony McCoy appeared capable of uncoiling his complicated psyche almost on cue during his retirement lap-of-honour.

In comparison, Moore is a throwback. He puts his name to a betting firm column, but otherwise gives little indication of any appetite for public attention, affecting instead a more old-school ‘Piggottish’ disregard for what anyone thinks of him.

And, of course, just as Piggott found out, such disdain only feeds public and media fascination all the more. The difference is that “The Long Fellow” seemed genuinely aloof from the opinion of others.

There have been glimpses from Moore that suggest, rather like Coolmore, it isn’t publicity he loathes so much as negative publicity, while there is also a view among the pursuing hack pack that he relishes his tetchy image and the fun to be had with it.

Nevertheless, despite suspicions he might protest too much, he remains an intriguing diversion from the sound-bite game. It mightn’t be ideal for those plugging Irish racing’s shop window – Longines Champions Weekend – but it does represent a reassuring triumph of substance over style.

Because whatever about inherently subjective “best” labels, there is no questioning Moore’s status as the world’s most in-demand big-race jockey right now.

Number one

Last year’s official appointment as number one rider to Coolmore brings him the cream of Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard and is as close to official coronation as racing’s top-dog that the old game allows.

From Piggott through to Eddery, and on to other legendary names such as Kinane, Fallon and Murtagh, the Ballydoyle job has always represented the pinnacle. Rarely if ever, though, can the big-race view have looked quite as tantalising as Moore’s does this weekend.

The embarrassment of Ballydoyle riches is such that he gets to spurn the Doncaster Leger ride on Idaho – and the chance to complete his English classic CV – and instead concentrates on Leopardstown, where the superstar filly Minding is favourite for the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and Alice Springs holds a leading chance in the Coolmore Matron Stakes.

Tomorrow, he is set to ride all three Group 1 favourites at the Curragh, including the odds-on Order Of St George in the Palmerstown House Irish St Leger and next year’s top classic contender Churchill in the Goffs National Stakes.

It’s hardly impossible that Moore could win all five Champions Weekend Group 1s. Certainly, if his mounts don’t collect the lion’s share of the €4.25 million prizemoney, both punters and his hugely wealthy bosses will feel it.

The greatest certainty of all is that no matter how many times he visits the winner’s enclosure, there will be no Dettori-style showmanship.


His father, the


festival winning trainer, and former jump jockey,

Gary Moore

, once acknowledged his son can appear to be “a miserable bastard”. Even if appearances are deceptive, no one is ever going to mistake the Brighton boy for the ebullient Italian.

Moore once outlined what should be patently obvious, that Dettori’s shtick strikes a chord because it is sincere, and aping it for the sake of supposedly trying to sell racing would look risible.

He pointed out that he has enough on his plate riding, without pretending to be someone he isn’t.

“I simply want to be the very best I can,” said the man who will be 33 next week. “I want to make sure I’m as good as I can be, not feel I haven’t tried hard enough.”

If that isn’t very showbiz, it is an outlook that has contributed to a series of results in the past number of years which make Moore as acclaimed in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong as he is throughout Europe and North America.

“If you had a Group 1 horse in the morning, you’d want him on it,” says Johnny Murtagh, the former champion jockey and now trainer.

Murtagh filled the coveted Ballydoyle role himself for three years, and he maintains elite jockeys are defined as much by temperament as talent.

“Nine out of 10 jockeys will win on most horses. It’s that one time when you shouldn’t win but do that makes the difference. And it’s all mental. On the big day, the more relaxed you have to be. You can’t be getting itchy and uptight. And Ryan has the perfect temperament.

“On the big day he rides relaxed. He believes gaps will come and for him they usually do. There might be a Group 1 next to the race, but he’ll keep doing things right and he never questions his own ability,” Murtagh adds.

If top jockeys are distinguished by that ability not to mess up when it counts most, great riders can take it a vital step further again.

"Mick Kinane, Johnny Murtagh, Frankie Dettori, Ryan; I just think in those big races they can bring you that head or a neck that makes all the difference. I think tactically Ryan is as good as the best I've seen," says trainer and Manchester United enthusiast, Eddie Lynam, who employed Moore on his star sprinter Sole Power.

“Before that, I only watched him on telly. It was only when I met him that I realised that he’s a very nice fella. The fact he’s an Arsenal fan is not a plus. But as well as being one of the best riders in the world he’s a top class guy,” he adds.

Murtagh agrees. “He’s actually very likeable and warm-hearted. It’s just there’s a bit of Tony McCoy in there, show how hard you are, like you don’t need the press.

“Lester Piggott always let his riding do the talking. And Ryan believes in that. But behind it all, he’s a good lad who’d help anyone.”

From the outside, though, Moore remains an enigmatic figure. Intense and flintily intelligent, he is focussed solely on the job of finishing in front. So, on the face of it, he doesn’t cut a charismatic figure, either in terms of flamboyance or that outlaw swagger Piggott so effortlessly exuded. Another former champion, Joe Mercer, once summed him up as “very sensible, a good family man, he doesn’t booze [and] he doesn’t bird.”

Admirable stuff to be sure, but perhaps it’s just as well the betting public’s affection revolves around results rather than romance, a point Moore himself would no doubt dismiss as irrelevant since his only duty is to do his best. And his best has got him the best job in racing. Certainly for an operation as Trappist in its public outlook as Coolmore, it’s a perfect fit that the man entrusted to guide their blue-bloods to success is so famously averse to fuss of any kind.

Not that he's impervious to dips in performance. Moore's Derby ride on US Army Ranger in June, for instance, attracted flak. Ireland's champion jockey Pat Smullen ultimately won on Harzand and the clashes of these two supreme jockeys are becoming a notable feature in Europe's top races, including Minding versus Harzand today.

“A top jockey is vital. If you compare it to football, a coach can do so much, but still needs a centre-forward to score the goals. Both Ryan and Pat are world class at what they do,” Harzand’s trainer Dermot Weld says, before demurring at the view that Moore is ploughing new ground as racing’s first truly international rider. “Mick Kinane was winning in Hong Kong and Australia and America long before now.”


Moore gives every indication of despising lazy definitive media tags, so would probably appreciate Weld’s precise qualification. The Irishman’s credibility is impeccable, after all. And it’s not like Moore fattens on flattery anyway. What he thrives on is winning.

“There’s no pressure with the Ballydoyle job – as long as you’re winning,” says Murtagh, smiling. “The real pressure is riding a 20-1 shot against them.”

Moore trades in such long odds about as often as he indulges in camera-friendly gurning. But he’s surely odds-on to maintain a convincing impression of the world’s top jockey this weekend.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column