‘No race is more im­por­tant than the Derby – it al­ways comes back to Ep­som’

Eight po­ten­tial rides and one world-class jockey. Horse rac­ing fans await Moore’s big de­ci­sion

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Racing - Marcus Army­tage RAC­ING COR­RE­SPON­DENT

At about mid­day to­day, Ryan Moore, ar­guably the world’s greatest jockey, will know which of Ai­dan O’brien’s pos­si­ble eight run­ners in Satur­day’s In­vestec Derby he is to ride.

It is not quite like the story which, for three decades in the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury, was cen­tral to the Derby build-up: what will Lester Pig­gott ride?

But, in bet­ting terms, it will be al­most as in­flu­en­tial and, if it is not al­ready favourite, the blue-blooded colt Moore rides will, doubt­less, be head­ing the mar­ket soon af­ter the an­nounce­ment.

Be­fore tak­ing three days off to spend time with his chil­dren at half term (it is very de­bat­able whether at­tend­ing pony shows with small chil­dren con­sti­tutes bat­tery recharg­ing or is the equiv­a­lent of seven rides at Hamilton dur­ing a pi­lots’ strike) he had nar­rowed the choice of eight down to just the half-dozen: (in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der) An­thony Van Dyck, Broome, Cape Of Good Hope, Cir­cus Max­imus, Ja­pan and Sir Dragonet.

“Ai­dan will tell me what he thinks, I will tell him what I think and what I ride will be what ev­ery­one be­lieves to be the right one,” says Moore, 35.

“I’m al­ways happy to go along with what ev­ery­one thinks. But the re­al­ity is I can only ride one and there’s a good chance one of the other seven will win. It’s seven ver­sus one, so from a bet­ting point of view the odds are in favour of one of the other seven win­ning.

“I’m just for­tu­nate to be rid­ing one of the eight; they’re all bred and trained for the job and if they weren’t in the Derby, it would be a lesser race for it. At the end of the day, I’ll have a very good ride, if it goes well and I have a bit of luck, I’ll have a good chance.”

To get to the stage where you can take the qui­eter do­mes­tic days off, you have to be a jockey of in­ter­na­tional stand­ing with am­bi­tions be­yond be­ing British cham­pion, a ti­tle Moore has achieved three times. Then, given the na­ture of long-haul travel, to achieve some sort of longevity, it be­comes es­sen­tial.

Though Moore is not quite win­ning ev­ery­thing around the world as he was three and four years ago, he has won the ma­jor­ity of the most iconic races: the Derby

(Work­force in 2010 and Ruler Of The World in 2013), the Prix de l’arc de Tri­om­phe (Work­force in 2010 and Found in 2016), the Ja­pan Cup (Gen­til­donna in 2013) and the Mel­bourne Cup (Pro­tec­tion­ist in 2014) while he is as at home in the Breed­ers’ Cup in the United States as he is at Brighton, where he was brought up. One day, he would like to win the Ken­tucky Derby.

But, says Moore, still noth­ing beats the Derby. “No race is more im­por­tant – it al­ways comes back to Ep­som; the past and what hap­pens in the fu­ture. What hap­pens at Ep­som is the foun­da­tion of rac­ing not just in Britain and Ire­land, but around the world.

“Ev­ery­where I go, it’s the Ep­som Derby. That’s what makes the stal­lions and I don’t think that’ll ever change. This year, all the horses are there. Two weeks ago, it would have been quite nice to see Too Darn Hot there and, look, there may be a cou­ple of colts who come around later in the year, but at the mo­ment there are prob­a­bly only two horses that shouldn’t be in the race. You could make some sort of case for the other 13. It’s very com­pet­i­tive.

“Apart from An­thony Van Dyck and Sir Dragonet, most of ours are go­ing up to a mile and a half for the first time and we don’t know how much they might im­prove for that.”

Moore’s first hazy memory of the Derby was of Erhaab’s win in 1994. “I re­mem­ber watch­ing it with my grandma af­ter foot­ball train­ing, but the first one which re­ally sticks in my mind was Lamm­tarra in 1995, the way he fin­ished and the ride he got from Wal­ter Swin­burn, how he flew from nowhere.”

Moore was told by plenty that nei­ther of his Derby win­ners could tri­umph; Work­force be­cause no horse which had been beaten in the Dante had ever gone on to win it, and Ruler Of The World be­cause so few Derby win­ners had not seen a race­course as two-year-olds.

“It just proves you don’t know where the Derby win­ner is go­ing to come from. I couldn’t have been hap­pier with Work­force’s run at York. Peo­ple will give you rea­sons why horses can’t win a Derby, I’ll give you rea­sons why they can, that’s why it is such a fas­ci­nat­ing race.”

Of course, be­ing spoiled for choice has al­ways been an oc­cu­pa­tional hazard for the first jockey at Bal­ly­doyle. Mick Ki­nane, Johnny Murtagh, Kieren Fallon, Joseph O’brien – they all rode the “wrong” one oc­ca­sion­ally. This sea­son alone, Moore has been on the “wrong” one in the 1,000 Guineas and the 2,000 Guineas, but Hermosa put that right in Sun­day’s Ir­ish 1,000 Guineas.

In­deed, it hap­pened in the Derby in 2017 when he rode O’brien’s Cliffs Of Mo­her, only for the sta­ble’s 40-1 out­sider Wings Of Ea­gles, un­der sta­ble work-rider Paddy Beggy, to sweep past him deep in­side the fi­nal fur­long. No one, not even Gypsy Rose Lee in her palm-reading car­a­van on Tat­ten­ham Hill, saw that com­ing.

“Of course, you have to hope you’re on the right one,” he points out. “But I’ve been there be­fore. Some­times it goes for you, some­times it doesn’t.

“You want to ride the right one but there’s no point in wor­ry­ing about it. We’ve got to run them to find out which is the best. It’s the most im­por­tant race, I want to win it. I’m cer­tainly not go­ing to go out with the mind­set that I’ve picked the wrong one.”

Any dis­ap­point­ment will be as­suaged by the fact that he is part of one of the most suc­cess­ful set-ups in rac­ing his­tory and the knowl­edge that if he does not ride the win­ner for Bal­ly­doyle on Satur­day he will, at least, ride him next time out.

“I spend a bit of time at Bal­ly­doyle in the spring,” he says. “I wish I could spend more time there. It’s in­cred­i­ble. Oc­ca­sion­ally I’ll ride the wrong one but it is fan­tas­tic just to be part of it, it’s very spe­cial.

“The whole thing works so well. I’ve been rid­ing for Ai­dan for 10 years. We have a good re­la­tion­ship, plenty of trust. We know what to ex­pect of each other.”

The In­vestec Derby on Satur­day is part of the 2019 QIPCO British Cham­pi­ons Se­ries: britishcha­m­pi­onsseries.com

Take your pick: Ryan Moore has an en­vi­able choice of rides for Ep­som, in­clud­ing his Dee Stakes win­ner Cir­cus Max­imus (be­low)

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