The American equivalent would have been Bill Shoemaker, or in more recent times Pat Day. That's the sort of lofty esteem that international jockey George Moore was held in. Australia’s greatest rider, George "Cotton Fingers" Moore, died Jan. 8 in a Sydney nursing home at 84.
Moore won 119 group I races (still the Australian record), including 35 Derby triumphs, and later won 11 Hong Kong training premierships. His ability to get horses home after securing a rails run became legendary stuff.
Moore was born in Mackay in north Queensland in 1923, began riding at 15 (as an apprentice under Brisbane trainer Louis Dahl), then moved in the 1940s to Sydney, where he and Hall of Fame trainer Tommy Smith formed the most devastatingly successful Sydney’s jockey/trainer partnership for the next 20 years.
Despite regular excursions to the Northern Hemisphere (in 1958 he rode 21 winners in a month for French trainer Alec Head), he won 10 Sydney jockey premierships between 1957-69. In Europe, he won the 1959 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (on Saint Crespin) and the 1967 Epsom Derby (on Royal Palace) as well as the French Derby, English One and Two Thousand Guineas, and the Gold Cup at Ascot.
When he retired from the saddle in 1971, he had won 2,278 races in Australia alone. One of Australia's oldest and most respected Thoroughbred columnists, Ken Callander, summed it up best in the Sydney Daily Telegraph: “He was racing’s Don Bradman.”
(Don Bradman is still regarded the greatest sportsman ever produced in Australia.)
Tributes flowed in from all sections of the racing fraternity when the news of Moore's death became public. Ron Quinton (who won eight Sydney premierships as a jockey) declared: “During my career I was lucky to ride all over the world, and I rode against and have seen all the great jockeys of my time from Lester Piggott to Darren Beadman. But I can honestly say there has been none better than George Moore. He was the best jockey I have ever seen anywhere in the world.”
Moore is immortalized by the annual George Moore Medal, which is presented to Sydney’s outstanding jockey.
He is survived by sons Gary, who is a leading trainer in Macau, and John, who is a leading trainer in Hong Kong.