AFTER 18 months on the sidelines, six-time champion jockey, Kieren Fallon makes his eagerly awaited return to race-riding at Lingfield on Friday.
Arguably, one of the greatest jockeys of all time, the Crusheen man has served his time for a lengthy ban he picked up when a second positive test for a prohibitive substance emerged following a routine dope test in France.
Fallon was cleared of race-fixing when his two-month trial collapsed at the Old Bailey in London back in late 2007 but less than 24 hours later, he was hit with a hammer-blow when told he would have to endure a worldwide ban that threatened to end his career.
Fallon is made of stern stuff, however, and the now 44-year-old is back and raring to go. He makes no secret of the fact that is burning ambition is to be champion jockey once again and, given his steely determination, he will do all in his power to achieve his aim.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s return to action, Fallon revealed it was always his intention to comeback. “I was just counting the days and I’ve had any doubt about that. After the court case, I’d been through so much, I didn’t think I’d want to come back. But the summer of 2008 I had with Sir Michael Stoute rekindled everything. Riding out at Newmarket was very therapeutic,” he said.
Interestingly, it was to Stoute Fallon turned during his ban and it is a well-known fact that the pair have always gotten on very well together. Fallon has had many high-profile jobs during his career. He was first jockey to Henry Cecil during his boom years, he also spent two years in the hot seat at Ballydoyle but now the former champion is back riding as a freelance and has been encouraged by the amount of people interested in securing his services. “Everyone seems to be very positive. I’ve had the world of people offering me rides and that very encouraging. It is very important to hit the jackpot on my first day back and ride some winners,” Fallon said.
Fallon, who must make himself available to drug testers for an hour a day and will be tested at least twice a week on his return, has had many brushes with racing authorities in the past but he claims to have put all that behind now as he builds up for what appears to be yet another instalment of his remarkable career in the saddle.
“I don’t dwell on those things anymore, it is history and it is best to move on. There is no point in going back over old sores like that and I’d like to think I will return a better and stronger person,” he said.
While there will be many in racing who will question whether the return of the three-time Derby winning jockey will be a long-term thing or not, there always has been scepticism where Fallon has been concerned and that is likely to continue.
Some would point to the fact that a plasterer’s son from Crusheen making the breakthrough and hitting the big-time in the upper echelons of Flat racing in England doesn’t sit well with some people in the UK but riding winners is best way to answer that. Fallon is revered by punters all over the Ireland and UK, particularly by those in betting shops, who have dubbed him the ‘assassin’ given the way he always gives a power-packed ride to all his mounts, particularly those that have been well-backed to win.
There have been many great jockeys in racing over the past 50 years, like Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery and Willie Carson to mention just a few but the there is no doubt that Kieren Fallon definitely fits neatly into that category. His return will light up the remaining few months of the Flat season and expect a committed and enthusiastic Fallon to feature for all the right reasons.
“I am mentally fitter and stronger now than ever I was,” says Fallon. “Look at Mick Kinane who is 50 and is riding out of his skin at the moment. I see no reason why I cannot ride 200 winners in a season and I will be doing all in my power to do.”
Sea The Stars/Fame and Glory clash hangs iin the balance
THE eagerly awaited clash of Sea The Stars and Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Fame And Glory in Saturday’s Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown hangs in the balance due to the continuing wet spell.
John Oxx has always said he would not run his star colt on soft ground and the son of Cape Cross, who remains unbeaten this term having won the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, Coral-Eclipse and the Judmonte International Stakes, may well swerve this Group 1 contest if conditions at the Foxrock venue are not suitable.
Speaking earlier this week, Oxx stated, “All is very well with the horse. He came out of his last race in good shape and I couldn’t be happier with him. It has been raining here on the Curragh over the past few days and the forecast for the rest of the week is not in our favour.”
The Curraghbeg handler has said his charge would run even if the ground was on the soft side of good but any deterioration in conditions would rule Sea The Stars out.
“Leopardstown is a free-draining track but it would need to be. If we miss the weekend, we will prepare Sea The Stars for Arc and see what the ground is like there,” concluded Oxx.
While the non-appearance of Sea The Stars would rob racing fans of a chance to see this year’s star performer compete on home soil, it certainly would appear to leave Fame and Glory with a simple task.
This fellow definitely handles soft ground having taken full advantage of Sea The Stars late defection to win the Irish Derby at the Curragh back in June. His trainer, Aidan O’Brien, is responsible for six of the 11 acceptors for Saturday’s race including Mastercraftsman, who was runner-up to Sea The Stars at York last time. Other Ballydoyle hopefuls include Red Rock Canyon, Rockhampton, Grand Ducal and Set Sail.
Dermot Weld is represented by Casual Conquest and Famous Name while Long Loch and Lord Admiral complete the entries.