Moore: My Cheltenham Festival fall will haunt me for a very, very long time
Life can change in a blink of an eye. One minute you’re soaring above the clouds – the next you’re on the ground, watching a Grade 1 win at the Cheltenham Festival slip through your fingers.
On the final day of the Festival, in the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, Sussex jump jockey Jamie Moore was given the leg up on Goshen – the 5/2 favourite and the Moore yard’s stable star.
The horse, described by trainer Gary as ‘a freak’ in the build-up, looked set to pull off one of the most exciting winning performances of the festival. Then the freak horse suffered a freak accident when ten lengths clear at the last.
Well in command and jumping the final obstacle, his front and back shoes caught together in flight, sending his pilot tumbling to the ground.
Now Jamie Moore has given an open, emotional account of the events that made his Friday 13th so unlucky.
“He’s an exceptionally talented horse and everything was going brilliantly, like clockwork,” Moore recalled.
“I couldn’t believe how well it was going – then I’ve kind of met the last on a bit of a long stride and he took his eye off it and didn’t quite land as well as he would have hoped.
“Coming back down on him I thought I had it sat and he stumbled again – that’s when I’ve gone. The speed I was going was as much a factor as anything, it’ll haunt me for a very, very long time.
“I’m gutted for the owners, the staff and my dad. Steve Packham, the owner, is a lovely man and the staff have put in a lot of work to get the horse there. Dad does so much with that horse – he’s always thought the world of him – and that Cheltenham winner slipped away.
“Everyone thinks an awful lot of him. I just let all those people down through coming off him, but hopefully we can put it all right.”
Anybody watching on TV would have seen who was quick to give Jamie given a comforting arm around him – 20-times champion jockey AP McCoy. Jamie appreciated it but said it did little to help him after ‘probably the lowlight of my career’.
“Nothing helped me in the immediate aftermath. I’ve known Tony for a long time, I rode against him. It was very good of him – he just said: ‘Look – we’ve done it, it’s done, just kick on’,” said Jamie.
“It was very kind, but I wouldn’t expect anything less. As soon as I went into the weighing room, all the valets and the other jockeys knew how I felt. That support is the side people don’t see. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m that sort of character, and it did hit me hard and it’s still hitting me hard.”
The 35-year-old took to Twitter to post a heartfelt apology for the unseating, huge for someone not big on social media.
The response was overwhelming and restored faith in humanity. Most were just glad both horse and jockey were unscathed.
“I thought I’d write something about genuinely how I felt, that I’d let people down. I wanted them to know I’m not just shrugging it off and I do care, because I do know I let people down and it hurts that I’ve done that.
“I didn’t do it for sympathy, I did it because that’s how I felt.
“It (the response) was very heart-warming – there’s a lot of very kind people out there. Everybody reads about the bad people in the world, but there genuinely are a lot of really lovely people and it was very nice. It was very kind that people offered their support. My phone has been ringing with calls from mates, people in racing and people I know.”
There was no getting away from the fact Goshen was the best in the race – by quite a way – so... What’s next?
“He’s not on a break but it just depends on when racing resumes. Obviously, he was going to go to Aintree – then we thought maybe he could go to Punchestown,” Moore said.
“You’d like to think he’s going to be a Champion Hurdle horse next year, so that’ll be his long-term plan, then we’ll work out a programme leading up to it.”
Online abuse is something the racing community and the wider sports world seem to have accepted as ‘the norm’.
Jamie Moore has not been immune from it but has dealt with it in a way befitting the man, particularly since his dramatic Cheltenham fall.
“You see the best sportspeople in the world getting abuse from people – Lewis Hamilton, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer. They get abuse from people and they’re the best. Even Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi get it – it’s something that happens now.
“I expect criticism for it, it’s part and parcel of sport.
“I don’t find the abuse hard to take, you do expect it and I know I made a mistake (at Cheltenham) that I’ve got to live with – but there’s no-one more hurt than me.
“The hardest thing I’m going to find is that the horse deserved to win at Cheltenham – that’s the hardest thing. I’m a big lad and I don’t mind criticism, it bothers you that you’ve let people down, but I don’t let it worry me that much it’s going to play on my mind.”
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