Ryan Moore was widely recognised as the world’s best jockey before this year’s Royal Ascot haul of nine winners, a modern-day record that edged him one ahead of the totals achieved by Lester Piggott (twice) and Pat Eddery. Surely there cannot be any doubters left now.
For one man to capture almost a third of the races at British racing’s flagship and most competitive Flat fixture is a remarkable achievement. Granted a little more luck he could even have been chasing down Fred Archer’s all-time tally of 12 victories at a single royal meeting, achieved in 1878.
Moore’s reserved demeanour on the racecourse is in stark contrast to that of his profession’s most recognisable face, Frankie Dettori, who also enjoyed a good week in Berkshire to follow up his Derby triumph on Golden Horn.
It is unlikely we will ever see Moore attempting a flying dismount after a big-race triumph, but that doesn’t mean victory means any less to him
While different personalities, both men are invaluable to racing, not only in their natural talent on horseback but in their ability to give our sport a bigger profile in the wider media. It is unlikely we will ever see Moore attempting a flying dismount after a big-race triumph, but that doesn’t mean victory means any less to him.
Moore has been crowned champion jockey on three occasions – that total would almost certainly be higher but for injury – however, even after the recent changes to the Flat season dates, there are no guarantees he will ever win a fourth title. Is he concerned? Probably not.
Flat racing is a global sport, now more than ever, and Moore has long been enthralled by the challenge of international competition. In an interview with this magazine two years ago, he explained that the four races he would most like to win were the Kentucky Derby, Dubai World Cup, Japan Cup and Melbourne Cup. He has since claimed those last two.
With his big-race services in demand from owners and trainers all over the world, is it any wonder that the prospect of travelling up and down the country, day after day, simply for ‘a winner’, holds significantly less appeal than it once did?
The man with the most individual victories next to his name at the end of the season should be applauded for his efforts but times have changed and there is little doubt that the title of ‘champion jockey’ on the Flat means less now than it did a generation ago.
Forty years ago, those lucky enough to be in attendance at Ascot on July 26, 1975 witnessed the ‘Race of the Century’, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which saw a battle of the generations between three-year-old Grundy and four-year-old Bustino, plus some other very talented rivals.
Our columnist Tony Morris was watching events unfold from the stands that day and recalls the build-up to one of the most breathtaking but brutal races ever seen on a British racecourse.
Tony recalls once asking Lester Piggott to pick the best horse he had ridden. Piggott, furnished with a bottle of champagne for his time, opted not for any of his nine Derby winners, as one may have expected, but for Rheingold, whom he partnered to a brilliant victory in the 1973 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, for a young trainer called Barry Hills.
More than 3,000 winners later and Hills is still going strong, having returned to the training ranks last year following the death of his son John. In a superb interview with Julian Muscat, he looks back over his outstanding career in what may be his final season with a licence. On the matter of the best horse he has seen during his lifetime in the sport, Hills finds himself in agreement with Piggott.
“I saw Tudor Minstrel win the 2,000 Guineas and he was every bit as impressive as Frankel,” he says. “Sea-Bird was a wonder-horse who won the Derby on the bridle, but I have always felt that on the day Rheingold won the Arc, no horse could have beaten him.”