Moore expands extraordinary CV against backdrop of jockey safety concerns
Notwithstanding the deeds of Anamoe or William Haggas – again striking in Sydney – jockeys have been the primary focus of recent racing news from frightening race falls to the jet-setting success of several of its stars.
Three serious falls in as many weeks in Melbourne juxtaposed against the fly in – fly out success of Ryan Moore, Zac Purton and Luke Currie highlights the extraordinary risk-versus-reward life these jockeys lead. Either what is a year’s pay for most people, or a lengthy hospital stay (or worse) can be earned in an afternoon.
The take-out is that the world of race riding has changed dramatically in the modern era which I’d define as being from the 1980’s, which saw the inception of the Japan Cup and Breeders’ Cup.
Then, during the 90’s, came the first Dubai World Cup; the internationalisation of the Melbourne Cup and international Group 1 status afforded to the Hong Kong Cup – which precipitated the global rise of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s International Races.
Thus, jockeys flitting from home to one jurisdiction or another has become increasingly commonplace and this was not the case – other than for forays across the English channel – in previous decades.
I’m not sure, however, that improvements to safety have been made at the same pace; notwithstanding the introduction of plastic running rails, vests and helmets.
The inherent risk in race riding is obvious, but also seems to be the justification behind an unwillingness to make change. Risk will never be eliminated, but surely the industry’s goal should be to minimise it as much as possible.
The events of recent weeks may not be repeated for some time and, thank God, no-one was killed, but in 2015 The Australian Jockeys Association found that since the 1840s, 873 riders have died in race falls throughout Australia.
Given that advances in science happen almost daily, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to suggest that new studies be undertaken to determine what might now be considered as the best protective gear for jockeys.
Rider Ben Melham has publicly raised the issue of fatigue given the demands of workload and wasting. While, fatigue has been generally dismissed as a factor in any of the three recent falls, Melham’s views should not be dismissed.
Damien Oliver, said on RSN Radio in Melbourne, that a ‘tightening’ of horses and ‘slackening pace’ were key factors in two of the three incidents, before adding that he believed race riding was safer now than when he started.
Oliver said that jockeys were mindful of their fellow riders’ safety. I’m sure this is true most of the time, but there are numerous examples of jockeys riding recklessly in major races and jockeys hitting the brakes after getting to the lead – an everyday occurrence in our racing and hardly a move which is made with the safety of fellow riders at forefront of mind.
Change, if any, needs to happen following greater consultation with participants, according to Oliver.
Any change, aside from possible improvements to equipment, may hinge on changing mindsets and more severe penalties for careless riding.
On the one hand, our extremely tight, tactical and tempo–void racing may be considered exciting and competitive or, alternatively, ugly, dangerous and unfair.
As a rule, jockeys race tight all the way here; sitting wide with galloping room is frowned upon (which is more perception than reality) and they don’t fan as much on the home turn as is the case in other countries.
The majority of our races are sit-and-sprint affairs which is a major issue from a safety view point, given the bunching of runners and restraining off heels. Perhaps jockeys should be fined for an exaggerated slackening of the pace?
Stewards also need to be backed in the decisions they make. Like many, I was uncomfortable with James McDonald winning a reduction in sentence on appeal of a careless riding charge which allowed him to ride on Golden Slipper day.
The careless riding penalty template and the process of appeal needs reexamination. His original base penalty was reduced by, among other things, “a further ten percent to reflect the “feature meetings occurring at this time of year”. That is palpably wrong and a luxury not afforded to any colleague scheduled to ride at Balranald or Orange.
On a brighter note, the performance of Ryan Moore deserves plaudits.
Taciturn though he may be and thus often hard to warm to, there is a growing case that Moore is the world’s greatest turf jockey of our aforementioned “modern” era – certainly in terms of the breadth of his international wins.
Fans of Frankie Dettori may well scream “heresy’, but the numbers simply don’t lie as is the case, which I endorse, which argues that Black Caviar is the best performed horse of all time having remained unbeaten in 25 starts with all bar one race, her debut, being at stakes level.
Moore’s wins last Saturday in the Golden Slipper and Ranvet Stakes in Sydney, where he was incidentally and delightfully loquacious by his standards, took his tally to 12 Group 1 wins in seven different countries in just six months (and one week) since he claimed the Irish Champion Stakes on Luxembourg.
The Slipper success means that he’s now won three of the four holy grail races in Australia (following Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate victories) and, on Sunday, he was millimetres short of claiming a second Hong Kong Derby win. He is yet to ride in a Caulfield Cup.
Moore has won the Epsom Derby, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Japan Cup, Hong Kong Cup, Breeders’ Cup Turf, Dubai Turf and Irish Champion Stakes, which I would argue are the pre-eminent turf races in each of those respective jurisdictions.
Dettori has, of course, also won each of those races and with the exception of the Derby, has won each of them more often than Moore.
However, Dettori’s been riding for about 13 years longer than his British rival and has not won a “major” in Australia nor a Hong Kong Derby. I may be being a little parochial to this region, but I fancy that gives Moore the edge in the turf pantheon and he has time on his side.
Remarkably, one major turf race to have eluded Moore is the Irish Derby, despite his principal training benefactor Aidan O’Brien having won it 14 times since 1997. Moore’s first ride in the race was ten years later.
Moore finished a half length second on Idaho to Harland in 2016, which is the nearest he’s come to claiming the Irish Classic. He’s since been beaten on five favourites (including one joint favourite).
Regardless of where you sit on any debate between Moore and Dettori, and any others for that matter, his appearance in Sydney was a bonus for racing in the jurisdiction and again highlighted what has now become a remarkable jet-setting lifestyle for the world’s elite riders.
It was, of course, Zac Purton flying into Sydney two weeks earlier to also claim a Group 1 double. Oisin Murphy rode at The Valley last Saturday, while Luke Currie won the All-Star Mile after returning from his Hong Kong base.
Currie, Moore, James McDonald, Hugh Bowman, Damien Lane and Blake Shinn then flew overnight to ride at the Hong Kong Derby meeting. This Saturday, Moore and Lane will join a cavalcade of the world’s best jockeys at Meydan for the Dubai World Cup meeting. Safe riding to all.