Donn's Articles » Jonathan Moore

Jonathan Moore

There was a point in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last Saturday at which the complexion of the race changed. Second last fence in the back straight, sixth last overall, Jonathan Moore sees a stride on Irish Cavalier and asks his horse to lengthen into the obstacle.

At the same time, Dynaste, who has been travelling and jumping well in front on the inside, gets in tight to the obstacle and belts it, checking his momentum. Irish Cavalier flies the fence on the outside, takes it in his long stride, fluent and efficient, and lands in second place behind the favourite Cue Card. Irish Cavalier has made two places in the air, and Jonathan Moore sits up on him as they start the run around the home turn, allows his horse to fill his lungs, ready for the battle that will inevitably ensue in the home straight.

“We were a bit flat out early on,” recalls Moore now, reliving the race. “Dynaste was setting a strong pace. But then, once we started down the back straight final time, he started to grab a hold of the bit, and he started to wing his fences. I was thinking then that he was going to run a big race.”

Moore had to drive his horse forward on the run to the fourth last as Cue Card travelled easily for Paddy Brennan in front, but Irish Cavalier responded. He jumped that fence, the first in the home straight, no more than a half a length behind the favourite, and suddenly Brennan was also in the drive position. Irish Cavalier got stronger, he picked up in front at the third last fence and, from there, he stayed on powerfully, willingly, all the way to the line.

“He gave me a great feel the whole way,” says the rider. “He was brilliant. I haven’t ridden too many Grade 1 horses, but he felt like a Grade 1 horse to me. Rebecca (Curtis) had him in some form. And he is only seven, he could get even better.”

The jockey punched the air just after he crossed the winning line.

“It was some feeling. It didn’t feel like real life.”

But it was. It is. This is reality now for Jonathan Moore. The biggest win of his life, his first Graded race win and the 50th of his career.

The young rider can still claim 3lb. Ordinarily, the horses that he rides get to carry 3lb less than their allotted weights, his claim compensating for his relative lack of experience. That’s the theory anyway.

But because the Charlie Hall Chase is a Grade 2 contest, he was not allowed to activate his claim on Irish Cavalier last Saturday. Even so, Rebecca Curtis was still happy to put him up. Therein lies the confidence that the trainer has in her young rider. Therein lies the reason why she offered him the job in the first place.

It was only last March that Moore had his first ride for the Welsh trainer. Imagine The Chat was running in a novices’ handicap chase at Navan on the Sunday before the Cheltenham Festival. Moore had ridden a little for Imagine The Chat’s owner JP McManus, and they thought that it would be a good idea to have him ride the Kayf Tara gelding at Navan, utilise his 5lb claim, as it was then. Reduce the horse’s burden from 11st 6lb to 11st 1lb.

Imagine The Chat didn’t win, but he didn’t run badly in finishing third, and everyone appeared to be happy with the ride.

It was a similar story at Aintree’s Grand National meeting last April. At Fishers Cross, another horse owned by JP McManus and trained by Rebecca Curtis, was running in the big three-mile handicap hurdle and, again, Moore was called up for the ride. Again the horse ran well.

Then at Punchestown three weeks later, Saturday’s Charlie Hall Chase hero Irish Cavalier was running in the big Guinness Handicap Chase, and was set to carry top weight of 11st 10lb. Irish Cavalier is not owned by JP McManus but, by then, Rebecca Curtis was aware of Moore’s talent. She booked him for the ride, and Moore duly delivered, kicking his horse out to an impressive victory. Irish Cavalier may have won that day without his rider’s 5lb claim, but he may not have. And why take the risk?

It was just a couple of days after Irish Cavalier’s victory at Punchestown that Rebecca Curtis offered Moore the job as her number one rider.

“It was brilliant to be offered the job,” says the rider. “Professionally, it was a no-brainer for me. It was a great opportunity, it was where I wanted to be going.”

In one sense, it was a no-brainer. In another, however, it was a big decision to make, to take on a job with a British-basec trainer, with a fiancée at home and a new baby on the way. Croía is now six months old and, if she could talk, she would say that she understands.

“My fiancée Charmaine has been brilliant. She is not from a racing background, but she completely gets it. We have a little house in Castleblayney, and I try to get home to Wexford whenever I can. I’m a bit of a home bird really.”

Jonathan Moore is not from a racing background either. His mother and father had horses on the farm at home, but it wasn’t until he sat up on a thoroughbred for the first time as a 12-year-old that he decided that he wanted to be a jockey. After a year at the RACE apprentice school, he spent a season at Gordon Elliot’s, then went to Colm Murphy’s and onto the late Oliver Brady – there’s the Castleblayney connection – before he joined Noel Meade.

“I have been very lucky to have ridden for some top trainers,” he says. “I have learned lots everywhere I have been, I try to continue to improve as a rider.”

He has ridden for some of the top owners too. He rode the JP McManus-owned Sutton Place to victory in his only bumper at Fairyhouse last January, and on his first ride for Gigginstown House, he booted Ice Cold Soul to victory in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival last year.

“I have some lovely horses to look forward to at Rebecca’s,” he says. “The high-class horses like Irish Cavalier and O’Faolains Boy as well as a bunch of lovely young horses that she and Gearóid (Costelloe) have assembled. But I love that I am based in Ireland too.”

Last Sunday, the day after he won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Irish Cavalier, he was back at Wexford for three rides. There’s the home bird for you right there.

© The Sunday Times, 6th November 2016