CAST your mind back to the first ever Irish Champions Weekend in 2014. Leopardstown was all set up for a crescendo in the Irish Champion Stakes, expected to be a victory lap for the Derby and International Stakes winner Australia before a possible all conquering Arc bid. Sent off at odds of 30/100, everything looked to be going to the plan for the son of Galileo who took it up from his pace-setting stablemate Kingfisher in the straight and looked set to win well.
However Ryan Moore had other ideas. Having sat in a detached last position as late as the turn in to the straight, Moore delivered Kevin Ryan’s grey with a withering run down the outside of the favourite, poking his head in front just before the line, with no time for Joseph O’Brien to conjure a reply-effort from Australia. It was a masterful ride from Moore and without doubt he was the difference between winning and losing on the day.
At the time, he had been riding plenty for Aidan O’Brien, but the relationship was a hybrid one. Three years previous, the Coolmore partners had approached Moore about taking up the number one rider position at Ballydoyle but the Newmarket-based jockey was reluctant to move his young family over to Co Tipperary, so a compromise was found.
They enjoyed plenty of success together, recording 11 Group/Grade 1 winners across those three seasons, but perhaps the Irish Champion Stakes caused a rethink. It was one thing not having Moore on your team, but having him against you was another.
The following season, Moore’s relationship with Ballydoyle tightened and he rode more and more for them, while still residing from Newmarket. He began to travel more to Ireland, and indeed other countries, with his services in high demand worldwide.
Blackbeard’s win in the Prix Morny last month gave O’Brien and Moore their 100th Group 1 victory together, an astonishing feat.
Nine of those Group 1 wins have come on LICW. In total Moore has ridden 15 LICW winners which includes another Group 1 success when riding for Donnacha O’Brien (Shale in 2020 Moyglare Stud Stakes).
Reflecting back on his and O’Brien’s success, Moore, speaking on an Irish Champions Weekend Zoom call, said: “I’m very lucky to ride for Aidan. Obviously Aidan would always say it himself, it’s about all the team at Coolmore and Ballydoyle, that makes it all possible.
“It’s the hard work of everyone involved in the stable and operation. They (Coolmore partners) are great owners, they’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into it and it’s just been a privilege to ride for them and for Aidan over quite a few years now. I’m very thankful for every opportunity they’ve given me.”
Here are Moore’s thoughts on some of his leading chances in the Group 1 races this weekend:
(Irish Champion Stakes)
Obviously it hasn’t been a straightforward year for him. He had a lovely two-year-old season, and he put up a very good run in the Guineas but unfortunately he wasn’t right after that race. He needed his run at the Curragh last month and he got the job done. It was his first run back and he is still quite a bit raw. He picked up really well in front and when the second horse came to him, he found plenty.
We’d be hopeful he will come forward from that. I think a mile and a quarter will suit him at Leopardstown and I don’t think the bit of rain around will be a problem. He obviously needs to improve on what he’s done this year but I think we’ll see a better version of him. We’re hopeful he can run a big race.
The Irish Champion Stakes is always a good race. Vadeni has obviously really improved this year and he showed that in the Eclipse. He’s probably entitled to be favourite though Mishriff was unfortunate at Sandown.
(Coolmore America Justify Matron Stakes)
She ran well in France (second to Saffron Beach in Prix Rothschild). She won the Prix Jean Prat before that over seven furlongs. I think it might suit her going back to Leopardstown. We’d be hoping that going a mile around a bend will suit her turn of foot. It didn’t go quite as smooth as I’d have liked it to at Deauville, hopefully it will here. It will be hard to turn around the form with Saffron Beach I suppose but Tenebrism is a three-year-old filly and she’s still getting better so I’m sure she’ll run a good race.
Tower Of London/Auguste Rodin
(KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes)
They are two lovely horses. Tower Of London won on his first start at Leopardstown. He won very well, he was very green, so he did well. Auguste Rodin, a Deep Impact colt, obviously the first day he got no run at all at the Curragh. He came out and won at Naas and I expect he will improve again. They’re two very nice colts.
(Comer Group International Irish St Leger)
We’ve been very happy with him for all his starts this season. A mile and six furlongs is a very different test but I think it will suit him fine. He’s an uncomplicated horse who is a pleasure to ride, he has a big engine, stays very well, and he has plenty of class in these staying races. Everything you ask of him, he always comes up with an answer, he puts his head down and fights.
(Moyglare Stud Stakes)
She is a high class filly. She won both her starts before she went to Ascot and she did it really nicely there (won Albany). I was happy with her in the Debutante. She was having a look at a few things there, she lost me on the way to the start and she didn’t like the cameraman on the way back either. She done that well, we’re very happy with her.
(Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes)
I’ve always liked him. He started off early at Navan, and won his maiden comfortably. He had just a minor little setback and we couldn’t get a run into him between then and the Futurity, but he was really good in the last furlong there, as he was a little bit green at half way, but once I asked him he dug in and picked up really well, I was impressed by him. He’s a really well-made, strong colt. If you saw him in the paddock before the Futurity, he really stood out.
I think Hans Andersen (runner-up in the Futurity) is a very good colt. He has a super attitude. You wouldn’t be surprised if he stepped forward again. These horses are open to improving and it’s early days. He has a big future next year.