Gary Moore and his family are spreaders of racing sunshine – sending out a more extensive collection of winners than any other household in 2009 – but their days begin long before the dawn.
At 6-15 on New Year’s Eve, Gary, Jayne, and 18 year old Joshua were part of the most extraordinary cavalry troop that returning night owls will ever see – a 30 strong crocodile of us in fluorescent jackets pursuing the flashing red signs on the back of the leading pair. We were at Lower Beeding in West Sussex but in the jogging darkness with a big strong steeplechaser called Bergo beneath me, it felt like some equestrian wonderland – except for the knowledge that this was the hard road which winners have to tread.
In the last twelve months, his first full year at the 90 box operation he has put together at Cisswood Stables just south of Horsham, 53 year old Gary Moore has sent out exactly 100 winners split 48-52 between the flat and the jumps. Amongst the latter was young Josh’s first victory over fences in a year in which he also won the Bollinger Amateurs Championship on the flat and now bids to follow his older brothers Ryan and Jamie into the professional game.
The decision as to the wisdom of trying to keep his already 6 foot frame close to the necessary 10 stone weight range will be made in the full awareness of the risks involved. 24 year old Jamie, the conditional champion of five years ago is currently sidelined after a shoulder operation and 26 year old Ryan’s regal progress as champion on the flat was interrupted in 2007 by a serious fracture to his arm before retaking the crown for the past two seasons. But this is a family that finds it hard to resist a challenge and although 22 year old Hayley got herself a good job as a TV production assistant, a victory last August in a the splendidly named “Brighton Belle Handicap” has seen her vow to return to the stable intent on winning the Lady Riders Championship this summer.
So great a sibling commitment is inspired by something more than mere paternal example and passing in the darkness was the skilled, composed little figure of Jayne Moore who is a wonder in her own right. The journalist’s daughter from Rottingdean ignored her degree in American Literature to play wife to journeyman jump jock Gary Moore and not only raised their 4 children but ran a 60 box livery yard next to their then stables above the racetrack in Brighton and now organizes the office part of what, with well over a hundred horses overall, has become a £4million training business.
For some of us that morning there was challenge enough in simply staying aboard the mighty Bergo as we powered up the gallop in the dark praying that we could keep the flashing lights in view yet not overtake into the blackness. But two and a half years ago Gary and Jayne pressed the then well considered Royal Bank of Scotland into backing them to buy the Cisswood set-up and it was only this autumn that they were able to secure the re-financing package that guaranteed their future after the collapse of the global banking crisis.
“Yes, it was a massive risk,” Jayne was to say later in the morning. “But the children were almost all self-sufficient and there were problems at Brighton. The yard was owned by the council and the gallops were on public land so it was hard to justify spending money on it all. With this place we have a chance although we probably would not have taken it if the children hadn’t all been so interested.”
In our ever more risk-averse society, it is invigorating to travel in the wake of those who take life so obviously by the throat. Even before our moonlit posse Gary had mucked out three horses himself and after masterminding two more lots in daylight – in the second of which I rode a silky-striding ex Argentinian horse called Free Tussi who goes for his third win in a row in today’s 3-35 at Kempton– he made entries for a re-scheduled meeting on Saturday before racing to watch the first of his three runners 15 miles away at Lingfield.
Gary is the most down to earth and coat-off of trainers, but there is a lot more to him than the cockney-voiced grafter his public persona suggests. The hands free speakers in the Merc were in constant use during our ultra swift transit as assorted owners, agents and friends rang in to enquire if his horses might continue the good run which had seen three winners in the last two days. And when snarled traffic in Lingfield prevented us making the course in time for the 12-20, he punched in a number to call up the commentary. His filly finished third and within seconds we were jog trotting out of the car park to discuss plans with the owners and jockey Fergus Sweeney.
Half an hour later we were again jogging towards Sweeney but this time with even more breathless intent. The second Moore runner had dropped Fergus at the start and had burst through the rails trying to escape. Filly captured and jockey remounted, the indomitable trainer then ran the fairly unenthusiastic pair all the way to the stalls only to watch a weakened effort make the whole performance unnecessary.
“In hindsight she should not have run,” he said later after we had watched his final runner ruin its chance by hanging violently to the right on Lingfield’s leftward turning track. “I get pigheaded sometimes and am always going to want to get stuck in, but things are much more organized than when we were in Brighton. Jamie has a massive input as does Philip (Hide, his jockey and assistant) and I could not do anything without Jayne.”
On New Year’s morning Gary was back from a Brighton party to be in the yard soon after five and be part of the owl-watched troop before half past six. Grafting as ever towards the chance of sunshine – what an example for our new decade.