The American equivalent would have been Bill Shoemaker, or in more recent times Pat Day. That’s the sort of lofty esteem international jockey George Moore was held in.
Sadly though, on Tuesday, Jan. 8, Australia’s greatest rider George ‘Cotton Fingers’ Moore died at 84 in a Sydney nursing home.
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 the rail 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 to Sydney in the 1940s where he and Hall Of Fame trainer Tommy Smith formed the most devastatingly successful jockey-trainer partnership in Sydney 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 France’s 1959 group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (on Saint Crespin) and England’s 1967 group I Epsom Derby (on Royal Palace) as well as the French Derby, English 1000 Guineas, English 2000 Guineas and England’s Ascot Gold Cup.
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 Wednesday morning’s Sydney Daily Telegraph: "He was racing’s Don Bradman." (Don Bradman is still regarded the greatest sportsman ever produced in Australia and is the best cricketer God put breath into.) Callander would have been just as apt if he had described Moore in the same stratosphere as say Tiger Woods.
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, 2nd only to Moore) 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: presented to Sydney’s outstanding jockey.
He is survived by his sons: Gary who is a leading trainer in Macau and John who is a leading trainer in Hong Kong.