RYAN MOORE returns to York today in the form of his life after a momentous four weeks – even by his standards – which began with The Grey Gatsby’s victory in the Betfred Dante Stakes.
He hopes to continue his winning run on the Knavesmire – Moore was last season’s leading rider at York – when he partners Scarcroft trainer Richard Whitaker’s Love Island in the Betbright-sponsored fillies’ stakes.
It has the potential to be an inspired booking. For, while the three-time champion jockey would say that he is doing nothing different, he is riding on the crest of a wave after The Grey Gatsby’s victory was followed by a sublime success in the Prix du Jockey Club.
The first horse to complete the Dante and French Derby double since the now retired Pat Eddery and Sanglamore in 1990, Moore’s ride at Chantilly – waiting for the gaps to open before pouncing – even earned rave reviews in America where he is now regarded as one of the world’s finest riders.
The raw statistics also back this up. Moore’s strike-rate this season stands at 23 per cent – the highest of a career that began at the turn of the Millennium – and he had ridden five winners, and been runner-up on six occasions, from 22 rides in the seven days prior to yesterday’s action.
His confidence is infectious, hence his association with Love Island as Moore looks to extend his lead over the pursuing Graham Lee and Richard Hughes in the 2014 title race.
Whitaker’s son and assistant, Simon, said the surprise jockey booking came about when Moore’s agent had called up for the ride.
He said the 20-strong yard on the outksirts of Leeds was hardly likely to knock back the services of the reigning York champion.
“I think he is the best man riding – he is so focussed,” he said.
It is understandable why the Moore camp were keen to get the booking on Love Island – the five-year-old won at Ripon and then finished a slightly unfortunate third at Chester to David O’Meara’s Bondesire, who is set to re-oppose under The Yorkshire Post’s columnist Danny Tudhope.
The two fillies are old adversaries with Love Island previously beating Bondesire at Ripon. Now they are poised for a third successive head-to-head.
“I think she has improved a little bit. To win off that weight at Ripon took me by surprise,” added Whitaker junior. “She is in good form. She did a lovely piece of work the other morning and is really well.”
York’s seven-race card, offering over £100,000 in prize money, begins a two-day meeting which culminates with tomorrow’s annual Macmillan charity day that is set to attract a 25,000-plus crowd.
It remains to be seen whether Moore will target the jockeys’ championship – injuries have scuppered previous quests and his priority is the Classics and prestigious Group One prizes.
They include next Thursday’s Ascot Gold Cup when he will bid to win a second successive stayers’ championship on Estimate, who is owned by the Queen.
The mare created the magical moment of Royal Ascot 2013 when clinching a historic victory for the reigning monarch, a win that Moore described as the highlight of his career.
However, next week’s assignment will be Estimate’s toughest yet. She’s not raced since Champions Day last autumn when seventh to Royal Diamond – and the line-up is likely to include the 2013 Ladbrokes St Leger winner Leading Light.
Nevertheless trainer Sir Michael Stoute issued an upbeat assessment.
“It hasn’t been easy. She had a muscle problem with her right hind, that’s why she hasn’t had a preparatory run,” he said. “We’re under pressure but we’ve made some progress in the last month. I think it’s a very tough Gold Cup this year, but I think we’re going to run very well.”
This year’s Royal Ascot will see Moore’s rival Frankie Dettori helping front Channel Four Racing’s coverage when the charismatic Italian is not required in the saddle by Sheikh Joaan Al Thani.
The broadcaster hopes this will reverse its disastrous Epsom Derby viewing figures, but Dettori’s team refuted suggestions that the jockey is planning to retire from the sport.
His manager Peter Burrell said: “When he’s not riding he’ll be on Channel Four. He thought he may as well pass the odd half an hour when he doesn’t have a ride doing that than be twiddling his thumbs in the weighing room. He’ll also be helping to promote Channel Four, make around half a dozen or so appearances on the Morning Line and do a few features.
“We knew the first thing people would say when it was announced was that Frankie must be thinking of retiring, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a hand in glove fit really, Channel Four have been after us for a while and Frankie felt now was the right time.”
Henry Brooke, the 2012 champion conditional over jumps, returns to action at Aintree tonight aboard the Phil Kirby-trained Birthday Guest.
He has returned to Middleham after splitting with his long-term boss Donald McCain who has opted to use AP McCoy and Wilson Renwick to fill the void created by stable jockey Jason Maguire’s long-term liver injury.
Brooke, whose Crabbie’s Grand National hopes were effectively ended when the luckless pacesetter Across The Bay was taken out by a riderless horse after the first circuit, has been recovering from a broken collarbone.
He is now riding as a freelance and looking to ride out for as many yards as possible as he attempts to get his promising career back on track.