JONATHAN MOORE had never ridden previously at Wetherby – or in a Grade Two race – when he arrived at the West Yorkshire track for Charlie Hall Chase day. It did not matter.
He left for Leeds Bradford Airport with the crowd’s cheers ringing in his ears after the largely unconsidered 16-1 outsider Irish Cavalier beat previous winners Menorah and Cue Card in an epic finish to the main race.
The 50th and most significant win of the highly-promising jump jockey’s career, it more than vindicated County Wexford-born Moore’s decision to become stable jockey to Welsh trainer Rebecca Curtis.
Both Moore – and the likeable Curtis – now have a horse who will be aimed at many of the top three-mile chases as the National Hunt campaign unfolds.
Yet this was not quite the landmark day that Moore had envisaged. Picked up at Manchester Airport by the horse box transporting the Curtis runners, he hoped The Romford Pele would win the Grade Two West Yorkshire Hurdle before having to settle for fourth behind the Paul Nicholls-trained Silsol after a thrilling race which saw five runners in contention at the final flight where Ballyoptic stumbled and fell heavily a stride after the hurdle.
This was just the precursor to the 39th Charlie Hall Chase being one of the most memorable as Dynaste, ridden by Tom Scudamore, set a blistering pace for much of the first circuit – Menorah struggled on the softer ground in the back straight while Moore was just happy to stay in contention on Irish Cavalier.
As the select seven runners headed out into the country for a second and final time, Cue Card – Britain’s highest-rated staying steeplechaser – started vying for the lead with Dynaste as Paddy Brennan became slightly impetuous on the odds-on favourite and 2015 winner while being stalked all the way by Moore.
Dynaste blundered at the fifth last and it became a battle between Cue Card, Irish Cavalier and RSA Chase winner Blaklion up the gruelling home straight, while champion jockey Richard Johnson just kept Menorah in touch.
Yet, while Irish Cavalier winged the fourth and third last obstacles, the jumping of his rivals was not foot perfect and another big leap at the last sealed the £100,000 race from the fast finishing Menorah with Cue Card a slightly disappointing third and Blaklion fourth.
However, while many will question Brennan’s tactics, it should not detract from the magnificence of Moore who commutes between Britain and his Wexford home where he lives with his fiancée Charmaine and their five-month-old daughter Croia.
“It’s plenty of nappy money!” said the winning rider. “Seriously, these are the days you dream about growing up. The horse is so genuine. I asked him up at the fourth last and he really came up for me. I did the same at the third last and he came up, he was steady at the second last and then pinged the final fence. This is my biggest day as a rider, brilliant.”
From a family steeped in the Irish countryside, Moore served his apprenticeship with Noel Meade and wore the green and gold hooped colours of JP McManus with distinction last season when the top owner needed a conditional.
After riding the Curtis-trained and McManus-owned At Fishers Cross at the Grand National meeting, he then won a handicap chase at the Punchestown festival on Irish Cavalier.
It was this victory which prompted Curtis, whose string was under a cloud for much of the 2015-16 campaign, to offer Moore the job of stable jockey – and for the young tyro to accept. This was a big call. As Moore has still to ride 75 winners, he’s still a conditional, though he cannot use his weight allowance in Graded races like the Charlie Hall.
“I’m pleased for Johnny. One thing I promised him when he came was that he’d ride them all, Grade Ones and handicappers,” she said. “I thought Irish Cavalier would run well, but I didn’t think he’d win. He’s still only seven and he obviously gets three miles.
“He’s improving every season. We have to start thinking of all the top three-mile races now. The more you race him the better he is.”
Words which apply in equal measure to Jonathan Moore, a new riding talent on both sides of the Irish Sea.