Donn's Articles » Jonathan Moore

Jonathan Moore

Jonathan Moore sat easily on Ujumpthelastuwin as they rounded the home turn.  A beginners’ chase at Naas, the Sunday before Cheltenham, big week ahead, and he’s coasting.

The rider allowed his horse move up on the outside of the leader Momus as they straightened up for home, as Robbie Power and Jungle Junction made ground to his left to join him.  On the run to the second last fence, the pair of them moved on, Jonathan Moore on Ujumpthelastuwin on the stands side, Robbie Power on Jungle Junction on the far side.  Moore spotted a stride early at the second last fence and asked his horse to come up.  His horse responded – one, two, up – but he clipped the top of the fence with his two forelegs.  That sent the horse’s centre of gravity forward, and he was just too steep by the time the ground came to meet him.  He crumpled, slithered, slowly eased his way down to the ground.

As actual falls for National Hunt jockeys go, this was a relatively easy one.  The rider was almost on the ground by the time he succumbed to gravity and came out of the saddle.  He landed easily on the soft turf, head over heels, did a tumble and came to rest.  It was all very painless before the pain came.  A following horse couldn’t avoid him and hit him full on in the back with both barrells. 

“It was excruciating,” recalls the rider now.  “And sudden.  In all my time riding, it was the greatest pain I had ever experienced.”

For National Hunt jockeys, pain is part of the deal.  Fractured bones, broken limbs, spells on the sidelines.  Moore had to be airlifted to hospital after a fall at Thurles in 2017.  So when he says that it was the greatest pain he had ever experienced, you know that it is real.  He lay on his back for a second, tried to breathe, writhed around, got to his knees.  He started to crawl, right hand forward, left knee forward, right knee forward, then stopped.  Unbearable.  Concentrated on trying to breathe again.

“They gave me gas to help with the pain.  Then they put me on a spinal board, which was agonising.  All I wanted to do was crunch up, try to ease the pain that way, and the spinal board was keeping me straight.  And yet, all I could think of was that I was going to miss Cheltenham.”

They took him to Naas hospital and gave him morphine.  That helped.  The x-ray revealed that he had broken three ribs in his back, that the horse’s hoof missed his vertebrae by one centimeter.  Moore says that he was lucky.  That’s National Hunt jockeys for you. 

“I started to think then that I could make it back for Cheltenham.  I was on strong pain killers, and I wasn’t feeling so bad, and I knew that there was no damage to my vertebrae.  I was able to walk, I was able to run.”

Moore flew to Cheltenham on the Wednesday, bursting with optimism, that he would be fit for his first scheduled ride of the week on the Thursday, Flooring Porter for his boss Gavin Cromwell in the Stayers’ Hurdle.  He got up on Flooring Porter early on Thursday morning, Stayers’ Hurdle morning, and took him for a walk.  He hadn’t sat on a horse since he had come off Ujumpthelastuwin, but he felt fine.

“Because Flooring Porter was running that day, he was only going for a walk, stretching his legs, which was fine for me.  I felt fine doing that.  It was only when I got up on Vanillier that I felt the pain.”

Vanillier, his intended ride in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle on the Friday, was doing a little more than Flooring Porter was, and it was when Moore stood up in his irons that he felt the pain, shooting through his back.  He couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t going to work.  He dismounted from Vanillier and told Gavin Cromwell that he wasn’t fit for competition.

“That was so hard.  To know that I couldn’t do it.  To have to tell Gavin.  People said that it was a brave decision, that it was a difficult call, but there was no decision to be made.  I just couldn’t do it.  I broke down when I was telling Gavin.”

It was Moore who suggested to Cromwell that Danny Mullins should take his place on Flooring Porter.

“I knew that Danny didn’t have a ride in the race, and I thought that he would suit Flooring Porter.  Flooring Porter is a front-runner, and Danny is good from the front.  And he is a strong rider.  I thought that he would be able to keep him straight.”

Even so, it wasn’t easy on Moore, watching Danny Mullins and Flooring Porter dancing up the Cheltenham hill in the Stayers’ Hurdle, three lengths clear of their rivals.

“I was gutted for me, but I was delighted for the horse and for Gavin and Danny, and for the owners.  It was a real case of mixed emotions.”

It was mixed emotions the following day too when Vanillier won the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, ridden to victory by Mark Walsh, not Jonathan Moore.

“Of course, I was desperately disappointed to miss Vanillier too, two Cheltenham Festival winners, but at the same time, you’re delighted for Gavin and for the team.  And it’s a long road.  Gavin is brilliant.  He’s so loyal.  He told me that they’d be there for me when I came got back riding.”

Moore got back riding at Ballinrobe last Friday, almost five weeks after his fall at Naas.  He came back on a winner too, Different Beat for Gavin Cromwell in an 80-95 handicap hurdle.

“It may have only been an 80-95 handicap hurdle, but it was like a Grade 1 race to me.  I was delighted to be back riding, delighted to be back winning.”

It was on Flooring Porter that Moore recorded his first actual Grade 1 win, in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown last December.  It was the latest milestone in a career that has seen him ride big winners for Noel Meade and Gordon Elliott, and for Rebecca Curtis in Britain, and which now sees him as stable jockey for Gavin Cromwell, a perennial now among the top National Hunt trainers in Ireland.  Moore is bursting to resume his partnership with Flooring Porter in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday.

“He has been very well since Cheltenham,” says the rider.  “He does tend to go a bit to his left, and Punchestown is obviously right-handed, so that is a small concern, but he has won at Cork and he has won at Gowran, and they are both right-handed tracks too.  He’s in great form, and Punchestown should suit his forward-going style of racing.”

Vanillier has been well too since Cheltenham, and he is on track for the Grade 1 Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle on Wednesday.

“We thought that he had a great chance going to Cheltenham.  He had done a really good piece of work beforehand.  He’s very well going to Punchestown too, and we’re hoping for a big run.”

Moore will have other good rides too during the week: Gabynako in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle on Saturday, Darver Star back over hurdles in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle on Friday, Five Helmets in one of the handicap hurdles, on Tuesday or Thursday.  Bursting to get going.

© The Sunday Times, 25th April 2021