The bigwigs at Racing for Change, the body charged with revitalising racing’s image, must have their heads in their hands. They desperately want to make stars out of the top jockeys and, outside of Frankie Dettori and AP McCoy, the public hasn’t got a clue who they are.
Now Ryan Moore, the 26-year-old jockey who has been champion three times already, follows his first Classic win in the Oaks with his second the following day in the Derby. He’s a brilliant rider with the support of Britain’s top trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, and is likely to be champion for as long as he wants to be — quite possibly the next two decades. Great story, no?
The problem is that Ryan doesn’t want to be a great story. To say he’s taciturn is to put it kindly. It’s not that he won’t talk to the press — he’s not particularly stroppy or difficult — he just doesn’t ever say anything when he does. Asked yesterday whether it meant a lot to him to win his first Classic, he basically said no, it wasn’t, then added that it wasn’t the Derby, anyway.
Today he made a bit more of an effort and mumbled a few clichés while looking rather embarrassed about it being a great race, but it was hardly the emotive stuff we expect from our sports stars now.
It wouldn’t really have been difficult, would it, to try a bit harder? He knows well enough by now what the journalists want. He doesn’t have to do flying dismounts and snog the camera — there is only one Frankie Dettori, after all — but we’d like to think the Derby meant more than a Newmarket handicap.
As journalists, we build up these top races to try and get the wider public to understand that racing is a big deal, that the battle of horse against horse is a magnificent spectacle, that it’s heart-stopping stuff. When the winning rider shrugs it off like it’s a primary school egg and spoon race, how can we expect the general public to take an interest?
But Ryan’s ice-cool attitude and nerves of steel are why he’s such an amazing jockey. He’s a consummate horseman, a top athlete, and a winner by nature. He’s just not a talker. I don’t think he’ll ever be one, and Racing for Change should accept that and promote him for his talents in the saddle, not at the end of a microphone. Let’s hope that Frankie wins enough big races to compensate.
Don’t miss next Thursday’s magazine (10 June) for a special report, analysis and comment on the Classic meeting