It would be quite wrong to say the shocking drive Ryan Moore gave Sir John Lavery at Leopardstown last Saturday, in a Group 2, was the main talking point, on an afternoon that saw defeats for Churchill and Winter, but it was certainly a very close second.
Moore is regarded as the best flat jockey in the world, mostly driven by the British press, but it’s possible that is not a view shared by the majority of Irish punters.
That he is top-class is simply a fact but, on what I see of him, mostly in Ireland, I do not regard Moore as having any great edge on a number of his colleagues.
We will get to Sir John Lavery in a minute, but let’s glance first at a number of other races this season where Moore’s prowess in the saddle left a bit to be desired.
Gustav Klimt’s inflated reputation, at least with the off-course layers, owes much to Moore’s riding when he won a Group 2 at Newmarket in July. The son of Galileo found all the trouble that was going, before being finally extricated to get up close home and win by a head.
When the pilot comes to Ireland, if he has a real blind spot, then surely it’s at Leopardstown. Take what he did aboard Johannes Vermeer in a Group 3 at that track last month.
Johannes Vermeer went off a heavily-backed favourite, but was beaten half a length into second by the brilliantly handled Seamie Heffernan-ridden Spanish Steps.
Heffernan kicked hard approaching the home turn, as Moore seemed to decide it was now appropriate to grab forty winks.
By the time he finally sent Johannes Vermeer in hot pursuit it was too late and the 13lbs receiving winner was never going to be reeled in.
Then when partnering Caravaggio in a Group 1 at Deauville in August he, at least to my eyes, pulled the hood off the horse a fraction too late as the field was despatched.
The explanation for Caravaggio’s abject defeat was that he was wearing the wrong shoes but standing in darkness, if only momentarily, was hardly a help. The Sir John Lavery performance, however, was far and away the worst. You could understand him dropping out at the back from the start, because the horse did sweat before the race.
But what Moore did, or rather didn’t do, from before the turn in was inexcusable. That a man at the top of his profession took so long to assess what was needed was astonishing.
Basically, Moore did nothing for most of the straight and, as a result, Sir John Lavery was locked away with nowhere to go.
Now this wasn’t a 20-runner handicap, where hard luck stories are inevitable, no it was a contest where Sir John Lavery only had to pass six inferior opponents. By the time Moore concluded he should actually do something the game was largely up. He finally pulled wide to challenge and the three-year-old finished best of all.
But it was simply too little too late and Sir John Lavery was beaten three parts of a length at the line, but only in fourth place, to make it even more farcical.
It was a ridiculous display from the saddle and begs the question did Moore think that those in front should have allowed him clear passage, on the basis the so-called world’s greatest jockey was on the prowl?
Why didn’t he switch out early in the straight and launch his effort down the outside? If he really understood Leopardstown he’d be aware that’s a tactic which works a treat. Just ask Andrea Atzeni, for instance, who came from further back than Sir John Lavery aboard Decorated Knight to win the Irish Champion Stakes.
Decorated Knight was last into the straight, before arriving with a flying run on the outside of the entire field to beat Poet’s Word.
Maybe Atzeni had looked at the previous year’s Champion Stakes when Christophe Soumillon had none of his 11 rivals outside him, as he produced Almanzor with a perfectly timed burst to beat Found.
In the last race of the day at Leopardstown on Saturday, Declan McDonogh came wide of the whole field as well on Burnt Sugar to beat 17 rivals in a highly competitive handicap.
To add insult to injury Moore then essentially got a free ride on television and the printed word didn’t do much better.
What exactly is wrong with calling something as it is?
My phone was hopping after the race and Moore got ferocious stick on social media.
One of the more printable calls I got was from a punter who doesn’t take his betting overly seriously.
He simply muttered the words: “God be with Kinane, Murtagh and Fallon.’’
I didn’t read everything, obviously, that was written on the Sir John Lavery subject, but what I did was mostly laughable. That is with the honourable exception of Brian O’Connor in his blog on irishracing.com. O’Connor, typically, didn’t hide from the truth.
This is part of what he said: “If Joseph O’Brien had given Sir John Lavery the ride Ryan Moore did he would have had to dive into a trench to take cover.’’
That is precisely the point. Why should Moore, even if he is considered to be something of a mini-god in Britain, be largely exempt from criticism?
To my way of thinking the ride on Sir John Lavery cemented the notion that he will never be regarded in the same manner here in Ireland as he is in Britain.
Great jockey? Absolutely and it goes without saying that anyone can make a mistake. Best in the world? Well, for many of us, that would be stretching things.