Brian O'Connor's Latest Blog

Brian O'Connor's Latest Blog

Don't Believe All Of The Hype

Mon 17th Jul 2017, 09:06

Frankie Dettori celebrates Enable's Oak victory
©Healy Racing Photos
We're endlessly reminded how racing is a game of opinions. And there is no subject to conjure firmer opinions than jockeys. That's common to everywhere. What's fascinating is how divergent such opinions can get either side of the Irish Sea. Ryan Moore gets routinely referred to in Britain as the world's leading jockey and is near-venerated by a media he affects to despise with his position as Coolmore's No.1 widely regarded as little more than his due. Yet in Ireland he seems to provoke a more lukewarm response.

Over the Curragh Oaks weekend a very unscientific poll of opinions from a selection of trainers and other worthies with no axe to grind was revealing: pitched the hypothetical proposition of using either Moore or Pat Smullen for a major race, the Englishman got half a vote, from one astute operator unable to make up his mind.

It isn't so simple as hometown prejudice for Smullen either. In fact there was a majority view that in any big race Frankie Dettori is still the supreme 'go-to' man - provided he concentrates!

So what to make of that: it's indisputable Moore is a wonderful jockey. Michael Kinane once insisted the measure of a great rider is being able to take it with you on a plane. Kinane did that and so has Moore, from Australia to Japan, the US and all over Europe. But it's noteworthy how the reputation he enjoys in the UK isn't replicated to the same extent here.

It could be similar to the 'McCoy Effect' over the jumps outlined in this space before. The record breaking National Hunt champion was worshipped the other side of idolatry in Britain. But pitching a similar query about having Walsh or McCoy riding for the mortgage payment and most Irish trainers had Walsh well ahead, with Geraghty and a couple of others ahead of McCoy in the queue.

No one was ready to say so publicly, partly because of a reluctance to create waves or possibly incur the displeasure of McCoy's greatest supporter, JP McManus. But in Ireland there was a gulf of difference between popular representation and professional judgement.

And it is noticeable there's a discrepancy between opinion either side of the sea with Moore as well although admittedly not to the same extent: top-notch obviously is a widespread professional view but hardly so exceptional as to justify some of the more hysterical press he gets.

No doubt Moore can console himself with the knowledge that the two opinions that matter most to him - John Magnier's and Aidan O'Brien's - are firmly in his favour. In fact there's a view that of all the star riders employed over the last two decades at Ballydoyle it is Moore who might be the most safely ensconced in the coveted position for the long term.

But it was pointed out more than once at the weekend that if Joseph O'Brien had delivered the ride Moore gave Gustav Limit at Newmarket on Saturday he would have had to don a flak jacket rather than a back-protector for the next race. The same could be said for Rhododendron in the 1,000 Guineas. Maybe even Order Of St George in the Gold Cup, or Orderofthegarter at Royal Ascot too.

The jockey hasn't been born that doesn't get it wrong sometimes. But it's noticeable how reputation absolves some when they do mess up. It was pointed out as well that having the best horses to ride is useful in getting out of trouble. Gustav Klimt looked a case in point.

Moore can hardly be blamed for the reputation many seem determined to give him, especially since he's supposedly dismissive of the PR game. And maybe this 'world's top jockey' label is just more cross-channel hokum along the lines of the Premiership being the best football league in the world.

Moore is obviously one of the world's top riders. But there's no need to believe all of the hype which suggests he inhabits some solitary planet of excellence.

An argument can be made too that Moore didn't enjoy his finest moment on Caravaggio in the July Cup.

Yes Coolmore's next big stallion hope missed the kick a little. But the race wasn't frantically run by July Cup standards. Intelligence Cross didn't appear to have the field flat-out from the front and ultimately finished only a neck behind his stable companion. Hindsight is wonderful but considering Harry Angel was in Position A throughout it required a major kick from Caravaggio to overhaul him, a kick his reputation might have led us to believe would come but didn't.

In contrast Enable's Irish Oaks success was the epitome of straightforward. The filly is officially Europe's top-rated middle distance three year old and while that might say as much about her male contemporaries as anything else there's no doubt Enable ranks highly among the modern Irish Oaks winners.

She has earned favourable comparisons in terms of ratings with outstanding Irish Oaks winners such as Ouija Board and Peeping Fawn and it's hard to fancy any of her male contemporaries giving Enable the sex allowance. Maybe the King George will come too soon for Enable but even a stalwart such as Highland Reel could end up bowing the knee if she does line up at Ascot.

It was no more than should be expected that trainer Denis Hogan's appeal against a 42 day ban picked up by Meadows Cross under 'Non Trier' rules at Down Royal was dismissed by the Referrals Committee.

Hogan's appeal was based on him presenting the horse in a condition to win and instructing the rider to do his best to win. As a consequence of the horse's suspension he argued he loses out on training fees and prizemoney despite no culpability for a breach of the rules being attached to him.

Maybe Hogan had a theoretical point. But in practise this appeal bordered on frivolous. Yes the suspension produced some hardship for connections - that's the nature of penalties. And effectively overturning the penalty in order to excuse the trainer would have set a ludicrous precedent.

Since we're talking opinions on jockeys there is unanimity that racing lost two genuine legends of the game last week in Martin Molony and Tommy Carberry. Not knowing either personally, it was left to those who did to paint proper overall pictures of their abilities across both codes and many were vivid.

Neither man could have ignored in his time how sometimes opinion on them wasn't uniformly positive. That's the jockeys lot. Both however seemed to have epitomised the old adage about form being temporary but class permanent.

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