Ryan Moore’s Law: Keep it simple

You can’t hear, see or touch it but the theory known as ‘Moore’s Law’ has arguably been the single greatest determinant of Irish economic growth in the last five decades. 

And although it’s awash with Greek letters and geeky looking curves, at heart the formulation has a ridiculously simple premise and has proven uncannily accurate since it was first propagated fifty years ago.

Here’s what it says: electronic technology halves in size but doubles in performance about every eighteen months. It sounds fairly innocuous, but understanding this has made one of Cork’s biggest employers, Apple, the richest company in the world and has convinced Intel that investing over twelve billion dollars in County Kildare is a good idea.

And it is in Kildare this evening, at the Curragh, that the latest iteration of Moore’s Law comes under scrutiny – the question again is whether a different kind of small and powerful package can continue to leave competitors in his slipstream.

Ryan Moore should be one of flat racing’s most potent marketing weapons, but still remains something of a well-kept secret beyond the narrow confines of his sport, which probably suits his remote and reticent character. However the powerful public impression created by Moore’s brilliance at Royal Ascot last week indicates that the secret is rapidly unravelling and with a good chance to add another Group One and his first Irish Derby on Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel, the momentum looks set to continue.

His nine winners at Ascot, a modern day record at the top-hatted extravaganza, has finally convinced most of the remaining doubters that he is the best flat race jockey on the planet. Not just the best - arguably Lionel Messi best, Katie Taylor best, Willie Mullins best – dominating his rivals through sustained and predictable brilliance.

He is so good in fact that after years of inscrutable unfamiliarity, commentators now call him by his first name only. Just like they do for Ruby, like they did for AP or - dare we even think it – the way they did for Lester. So what makes him this good? The answers are still freshly available and easily discernible in a recap of his Ascot nine.

Gleneagles: Small field in a round mile, raced wide behind the front three, plenty of room, leads a furlong out, best horse easily wins. Uncomplicated.

Clondaw Warrior: Two and a half mile marathon, held up at rear, no panic, eased widest off the home turn, avoids slower traffic, stays on to lead inside final furlong, wins. Uncomplicated.

Washington DC: Straight sprint, wide across the track, lots of racing room, strong finish. Uncomplicated.

Acapulco: 2YO straight sprint, cavalry charge, leads early, drifts under pressure, calmly straightened, and keeps on well for pressure. Uncomplicated.

Gm Hopkins: Mile handicap, roughest race of the week, twenty-eight runners, two groups, barging a furlong out, Spark Plug is clipped and collapses under Jimmy Fortune, Moore icily switches out from behind slowing horses, quickens decisively to win. Could have been complicated, but it wasn’t.

Waterloo Bridge: Sprint, inexperienced juveniles, nursed along behind front runners, quickens, drifts right, whip hand changes almost unperceptively, horse straightens, quickens, wins uncomplicatedly.

Curvy: 3YO fillies, mile and a half, pulls hard early, settled in fourth, two chances to go early on the inside rail, resisted – traffic risk, straightened, delivered, wins. Uncomplicated.

War Envoy: Straight mile, cover necessary as long as possible, races in behind, quickens on inside, no risk – broken field and lots of room, brilliantly timed. Uncomplicated.

And finally his ninth and record winner, Aloft in the Queen’s Vase a listed two mile contest with thirteen runners.

Aidan O’Brien has two runners, and although Bantry Bay is well supported to give Aidan’s son Joseph his first winner of the meeting Aloft from the same stable starts as the marginal favourite.

The race is disorganised and dog rough. Aloft doesn’t have the tactical pace to lie up behind the leaders or else Moore is deliberately biding his time, but he races a fair distance off the pace and the jockey seems to be getting worryingly niggly a long way from home.

The leaders accelerate two furlongs out and Joseph delivers Bantry Bay to challenge on the wide outside. He is immediately body slammed by a wandering opponent and hope unluckily evaporates.

These shenanigans break the field and creates a welcoming hole which the staying Aloft is now on hand to saunter through. If this was American football it was like watching an offensive tackle punch a hole in the defensive line for the running back to score. Needless to say, Ryan Moore is the running back, not the tackle. This contest was decidedly complicated, but nonetheless, a touch down is a touchdown. Simple.

Lester Piggott always believed that the best way to win the Epsom Derby was to be three off the rails in fifth when you turned into Tattenham corner. His point being that diligent risk elimination allowed him to avoid the debris when early leaders inevitably weakened and drifted wobbily backwards. Piggott wanted to control what he could control and eliminate as many random variables as possible. He was probably on to something as he won the race nine times.

Moore too seems to excel at these tactics. No real flashy inclinations to lie in behind a wall of horses with his arse in the air and nowhere to go – a malady that seems to infect many of his contemporaries.

So maybe his genius lies beyond the obvious traits of all good jockeys - courage, timing and strength. Maybe his real differentiator is an ability to simplify complexity with more regularity than his opposition an advantage that lies mostly from the neck up. A deep thinker, he is the antithesis of the old betting shop dictum that “they are jockeys because they are small, not because they are clever.”

In parallel with a more public recognition of his talent, he also appears to have recently relaxed a little more into his prominent role as an ambassador for his sport. Although he still remains the ‘anti-Dettori’ at heart, (he looks like he would rather have a tooth extracted without anaesthetic than perform a flying dismount in the winner’s enclosure) he has been caught smiling in public on several occasions recently. Because of this and his growing excellence at his craft, the brand is gradually maturing from ‘that’s one right grumpy bastard’ to ‘ah sure - that’s just Ryan, take him or leave him.’

John Magnier, who like Moore, could never be easily mistaken for a little ray of sunshine, was asked in a post-race TV interview at Ascot last week to describe what Moore has added to the Coolmore enterprise. Interestingly, he didn’t resort to bland clichés on his horsemanship - instead he focused on the man himself, emphasising his sense of humor and how much fun he is to spend time with. He looked and sounded a little surprised.

He won’t be too surprised if his fun man in the Coolmore saddle steers Highland Reel past the red hot favourite Jack Hobbs this evening to continue Aidan O’Brien’s near monopoly on our richest classic. The horse, recently second in the French Derby, will certainly be ridden with a plan, all known risk will be minimised, variables eliminated and judgement applied.

Moore’s Law, Rev 2.0. Simplify the complex.

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