Ryan Moore: Globetrotting jockey who quietly conquered the flat-racing world

Story highlights

  • Ryan Moore is generally regarded as the finest jockey in flat racing in the world currently
  • A former footballer in his youth, the diehard Arsenal fan was a relative latecomer to riding
  • Moore is UK monarch's go-to jockey when it comes to big races

(CNN)When it comes to racing the Queen's horses, one man is Her Majesty's knight in shining armor.

Ryan Moore is seemingly the British monarch's jockey of choice and no wonder. The consensus is that the Englishman is the best in the business, a view enhanced by his win at the prestigious Melbourne Cup in November.
However, he is quick to downplay his regular meetings with Queen Elizabeth II, treating her like he would any other owner.
    "It's not really different and it's very easy to ride for her," Moore told CNN. "There's no pressure. She's just very easy going. Riding for her is a great experience."
    Asked about the accolade of being the world's most accomplished horseman, Moore brushes it aside.
    "I take those sorts of comments with a pinch of salt. I'm just in a position to ride these great horses in these great races and I try to do as well as I can," he says.
    "I don't know who's number one, it's very hard to say. People will forever debate these sorts of things."
    The 31-year-old has won everything from the Epsom Derby to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and ridden to victory all over the globe from Royal Ascot to Japan's Hanshin Racecourse.
    Moore says he's lazy, that he's lucky, but his peers say otherwise. Brother Jamie is a National Hunt jockey and likes to tell the story of how his brother turned down his first ride at the age of 16. While most youngsters would have jumped at the chance, Moore rejected it because he felt it had no chance of winning.
    The judgment of a rider labeled "a perfectionist" by his brother is clearly good -- he went on to win seven of his first 10 races.
    He is known to turn up early at a racecourse whatever the event to walk the course. He pores over races on television to learn all he can about upcoming rides or those he is up against.
    "You always have to be taking advantage of whatever information you can," he says. "You want to ensure you're not going to get stuck behind a horse that's got no speed when it comes to the key moments in a race.
    "Often best-laid plans go out the window," he explained. "You don't get a moment's notice to think but any information you have -- however small -- is helpful so it's always worth doing your homework."
    Born into a horse-racing family, dad Gary is a trainer and his three siblings -- two brothers and a sister -- are all jockeys.
    It's as if he was born to sit in a saddle.
    Football was the initial passion, the Arsenal fan had trials with Brighton and Hove Albion, who play in English football's second tier.
    But his once regular kickabouts have been curtailed to the odd game with son Toby in the garden of the family home at Newmarket, the home of English racing.
    Unsurprisingly, he picks out Alexis Sanchez as the Gunners' star performer but less because of his rush of goals than his "great work rate," an attribute repeatedly leveled at Moore by his peers.
    Football, though, remains something he gets mere snapshots of as he travels the globe riding the world's best racehorses at the world's best racecourses.
    Surely, there must be a favorite? "I don't have a favorite place to ride, I just like to ride good horses. Of my wins I suppose the Arc was the most important one for me because it's a very difficult race to win.
    "And as for a favorite horse, it's difficult to pick just one. There are a few I've had more of a history with that stand out but I couldn't pick just one."
    Last season alone, Moore celebrated 155 winners across the planet, although celebrated might not quite be the right word.
    Moore has been criticized by the British media for his surly ways in and out of the saddle, even his father once joked he was a "miserable bastard."
    There are times he has celebrated -- he was all smiles after riding Protectionist to a famous victory in Melbourne -- but more often than not he has entered the winners enclosure with little fanfare.
    Admittedly it is with good reason: "Usually my work isn't done for the day and there's another race to come moments later. I like to focus on that while I'm still there and I don't have time to worry about anything else."
    Even his son would like him to ooze greater enthusiasm. Toby's own hero being Frankie Dettori, the outgoing jockey with the penchant to jump out of the saddle in celebration of victory.
    Toby loves Frankie and, for that matter, dad does too, listing him alongside Kieren Fallon and Mick Kinane as the jockeys he aspired to be like.
    But his idols, ironically, were more of the jump jockey variety, the likes of AP McCoy and Richard Dunwoody despite the fact that Moore only had aspirations to ride on the flat.
    As a result, while his friends dreamed of growing big, Moore was ever hopeful he would remain small and remembers celebrating the fact he stopped growing at 5ft 7in.
    That he has achieved so much since the decision aged 17 to forgo his A-levels -- despite opposition from his mother -- sometimes leaves him bemused.
    "I didn't think I ever thought what I might achieve or how it might go," he says. "You don't think about those things at 17 or 18, you just do what you're doing. I wasn't thinking about the future.
    "And I've never been one to seek the limelight. That's just the way I am. I'm quite a quiet person."
    With royal approval and an increasingly impressive CV, the limelight is inevitably on Moore. In Japan, where he rides for two months of the year for example, he is met at airports and train stations by fans wanting photographs and autographs.
    But its not all glitz and glamor.
    It is common for him to fly around the world for a solitary race, racing in what is the equivalent of the middle of the night for him before flying straight back home.
    At least jet lag doesn't have a chance to set in ...
    Now is a rare quiet period of the year for the quiet man of racing. The next big meeting on the agenda is March's Dubai World Cup. Should Moore be victorious, don't expect him to celebrate.