Cheltenham Festival: Queen Mother Champion Chase victory for Sire De Grugy proves popularity of Moores' family affair
It was the first time Jamie Moore had ridden into this Festival's hallowed winner's circle, and what a way to break his duck
Wednesday 12 March 2014
It was a family affair here as Sire De Grugy stepped out of a winter shadow on a bright spring afternoon to take the Betvictor Queen Mother Champion Chase.
The gelding is trained and ridden by Moore & Son, Gary and Jamie. He is the first and only horse to carry the colours of Steve Preston and his extended clan, 12-strong on the podium. And racing's wider brotherhood showed its appreciation as, in an unprecedented show of solidarity, the jockeys who had not ridden in the race emerged from the weighing room to cheer their friend and colleague.
It was the first time Moore Jnr had ridden into this Festival's hallowed winner's circle, and what a way to break his duck. Yes, Sire De Grugy started 11-4 favourite for the two-mile chasing crown and, with two Grade One races already under his girth this season, was setting the standard. But despite his obvious progressive talent, his position at the top of the tree had been acknowledged only rather grudgingly in the face of the enforced absence from the campaign of the brilliant title-holder, Sprinter Sacre.
Perceptions must now change. Sire De Grugy showed himself worthy of the highest accolades as he powered up the finishing hill, still full of running after a foot-perfect round of jumping, to beat Somersby six lengths.
However, it was not only the horse, who cheerfully and unassumingly got on with his job, that was given the reception he deserved, but also the similarly gifted horsemen who brought him to this defining moment.
Gary Moore cannot really be described as a small-time trainer; he has a string of more than 100 at Lower Beeding in West Sussex. The sport has been his life; his father Charlie trained, he was a journeyman jump jockey for 17 years, and his children are all riders. The eldest, former Flat champion Ryan, was here to watch.
The two younger sons, Jamie and Josh, are part of their father's business at aCisswood Stables. "We all stick a shift in," said the hero, clearly moved by the public and professional reaction to the victory. "Most people in racing do and it's how we've been brought up. But it's nice to know you're liked in this world."
Both Gary and Jamie preferred to divert credit to the other, and to the white-blazed chestnut who gave them their moment in the sun. After Somersby and two of the Irish challengers, Special Tiara and Arvika Ligeonniere, swapped duties up front in the race, Moore Jnr put Sire De Grugy in the firing line going to the second-last obstacle, briefly accompanied by the 2011 winner and dual runner-up Sizing Europe.
"He was travelling so well as I came down the hill," he said, "and when I went past Ruby [Walsh, on Arvika Ligeonniere] I shouted to him what I should do – he's the one who has ridden all the winners here after all – and he told me to get myself up there and sit behind Special Tiara. So after he'd given me my riding lesson, I made my move. And I must have got it right as even Ryan said I rode a good race."
Behind Sire De Grugy, Somersby held off the fast-finishing Module by a neck, with the old-timer Sizing Europe an honourable fourth. "I had some spin on mine," said Dominic Elsworth, on the runner-up, before echoing the popular sentiment. "Jamie sits next to me in the weighing room, and I couldn't be more pleased. He's a great lad and they're a great family."
Moore knows Sire De Grugy better than many riders know their mounts; he rides him daily at home, usually doing his own thing away from the activity surrounding the main string before getting on with his afternoon job as a jockey.
"He's obviously improved this season," he said. "I've been impressed with the way he can now cope with fiddling a fence if he meets it wrong, that has come with maturity and he's good at it now. We have a good rapport and everything clicked today. When I sat still he popped, when I asked he came up for me and when I gave him a kick after the last he went again. He is such a trier, a really tough horse.
"And getting him here today is such a good training performance. He ran five times in two months back in the winter and won four of them. Then we gave him a break and he's come and done this today. It shows dad can train them hard or soft."
Moore Snr has had a winner at this meeting before, with Tikram in one of the handicaps, but Sire De Grugy is his first top-class horse in 21 years with a training licence, and he defends his pride and joy roundly.
"Someone said that as the Champion Chase, this race should be done under the Trade Descriptions Act because Sprinter Sacre wasn't here," he said. "And that sort of thing is annoying. This horse has never been given the credit he deserves, but today he's gone out there and done it, under an absolute peach of a ride."
The acquisition of Sire De Grugy, who cost just £41,000 (small change in racing terms) and has won some £500,000, was the result of a business punt by Moore. Preston asked a selection of trainers to find him a horse and stand 25 per cent of the risk themselves. "Gary was the only one happy with that," he said, "and now here we are today."
The odds in this game tend to be stacked in favour of the Goliaths; it was business as usual in the opener, for instance, as Faugheen proved himself yet another expensively bought youngster of immense potential for the powerful Willie Mullins stable. But the Davids can have their day.
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