Fallon adds different dimension to Derby

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The Independent Online

The 225th was one of the great Derbys and not because North Light is likely to emerge as a wonder horse of the modern era. It was great because his jockey was, and Kieren Fallon now belongs in the sacred bracket of Lester Piggott as a man who has stolen the day as a showcase for his talent.

The 225th was one of the great Derbys and not because North Light is likely to emerge as a wonder horse of the modern era. It was great because his jockey was, and Kieren Fallon now belongs in the sacred bracket of Lester Piggott as a man who has stolen the day as a showcase for his talent.

It was the Long Fellow's expertise that he understood the course and the enormity of Blue Riband day. He showed that by showing nothing. Fallon is now in the same realm. He does not take part in Derbys. He dominates them. He is the lead in front of a chorus which accepts his domination.

"I thought we had a chance if North Light started to come back to us," Kerrin McEvoy, the rider of Saturday's runner-up, Rule Of Law, said, "but, typical of Kieren, he ran all the way to the line." Yet McEvoy had only been in this country for just over a month. He cannot know what typical Fallon is unless it is a pervading attitude in the jockeys' room.

Fallon is not clever on the ground, in the paper-qualification sense, but he is highly intelligent on a horse. When he gets legged up, it is into a different world and nowhere is this more obvious than in a Derby.

The trickery began even before the stalls opened on the simmering Downs on Saturday, when the Irishman was led slowly to the start. Part of the gamesmanship was to keep his rivals waiting, to keep them stewing in the muggy atmosphere.

When he finally allowed the Classic to start, Fallon ensured the event revolved around him. North Light was swiftly placed close to the lead, a strategy Piggott routinely employed.

The strike for home came just after the descent around Tattenham Corner. Perhaps only he possessed the self-confidence to smash on that point. It was a vulnerable position to be in, susceptible yet dominating at the same time.

There was no prettiness from there, just muscular addition to North Light's staying aptitude. They lined up behind, not to challenge but to pay respect.

At Brighton yesterday, Fallon paid full due to his equine collaborator. "Talk about coming down to earth," he said. "I was up at 7am today riding work for William Haggas, who couldn't believe I was coming here for six rides after that. But being champion jockey means a lot to me and I've got to keep at it.

"I know it's easy to say now, but I knew North Light would win weeks ago. I rode him spells of work and I knew he would finish on his own," he said. "My Derby winner last year, Kris Kin, and him are completely different types. Kris Kin would only do what he wanted to do, while North Light has a nice touch of toe."

Unlike Fallon, we do not yet know how good North Light is. Neither Kris Kin nor his other Derby victor, the 1999 winner Oath, won again. On Blue Riband day, though, they benefited from a sorcerer's touch.

There were other good horses in Saturday's field, but they will prove themselves good over distances shorter than 12 furlongs. Into this category we can place American Post, Salford City and Snow Ridge, all of whom got into promising positions and then petered out.

"He ran very well," Criquette Head-Maarek, American Post's trainer, said yesterday. "He came home last night, ate all his food and he is fine. He will have a rest and we will bring him back for August or September."

The Eclipse at Sandown or York's International Stakes will be the focus for Salford City. "He ran well, but didn't appear to stay. He came there to be near enough second and ran out of gas," David Elsworth, his trainer, said yesterday. "I got excited and I thought we were going to be in the three. But it didn't happen and we're going to have to shorten him up a bit [in trip].

"He's a very good horse and it was felt that if he had a chance he ought to take it, it just didn't work out, unfortunately. The Eclipse is a race we'll put him in, but he's been on the go since Christmas and it might be better if we left him for York and a campaign in the second half of the season. But that's just an initial gut feeling, we don't have to make any decisions just yet."

The decision about which horse to back in the Derby 2005 will be less complicated. Kieren Fallon may be 39, but he does not carry with him a sense of physical deterioration. There are more Blue Ribands in him and, like another mysterious character from times past, we will now talk about a special ingredient for the premier Classic, the Fallon factor.


1. Kieren Fallon - North Light ;
"He's always been a favourite of mine and I've always thought this would be my Derby horse. He was very impressive in the Dante, he's improved since then and I just hope he can keep improving. I'm very lucky really. There's a lot of luck involved for something like this to happen and it's fantastic."

2. Kerrin McEvoy - Rule Of Law;
"He ran a cracking race. He just wasn't able to go the speed early on and was a bit reluctant to go up the hill. It wasn't until halfway that he started to pick the bit up and he showed courage all the way to the line. When I got to the outside of Salford City I thought I had a big chance. It's a big thrill coming second - it feels like I have won it. The Derby is a great race and this has made me more hungry for next year."

3. Michael Kinane - Let The Lion Roar;
"I got stuck behind Percussionist, who was going nowhere and he didn't come down the hill well - he fell down it. But when mine got on the level, he fairly flew. That was a big run."

4. Kevin Darley - Percussionist;
"I tried to get a position and I was happy where I was, but I was having to kick and scrub to hold it. When he came down the hill, he was all arms and legs because he was off the bridle. When we swung in, they had got first run on me and when I got him on an even keel he picked up and looked like he was going to be a good second. But he'd had to do so much work to get into the race that he'd used the gas. He got tired in the last half a furlong, but he ran a big race."

5. Johnny Murtagh - Salford City;
"We were travelling really well and I thought we had a real chance, but he didn't stay. I was tracking Frankie and we had a beautiful run round, I came to deliver the challenge and ask him for 100 per cent effort and got to within two lengths of Kieren at one stage. But he just died on me.";

6. Richard Hughes - American Post;
"He didn't stay. He didn't get home."

7. Frankie Dettori - Snow Ridge;
"The horse felt brilliant going to post. I had a little look coming round Tattenham Corner and felt him coming good and I knew that he has a good turn of foot. However, he only went a few hundred yards and then lack of stamina started to tell. I went from maybe finishing second or third to dropping out and I wanted to jump on Rule Of Law in the last furlong."

8. Eddie Ahern - Hazyview;
"It was a great occasion, but he didn't stay."

9. Darryll Holland -Pukka;
"We had a good position and I thought I was going to be placed, but he just tired."

10. Richard Quinn - Gatwick;
"He gave me a great ride. He did not come down the hill or handle Tattenham Corner well. He'd be a better mile and a quarter horse. He just flattened out in the last couple of furlongs."

11. Dane O'Neill - Massif Centrale;
"It's a whole new experience for him, he's still a novice. He behaved well until the start and then the occasion got a bit much for him. He got a bit fizzy. He's definitely a horse for the future. You'll see his full potential later on."

12. Michael Hills - Coming Again;
"He was travelling well and just didn't come down the hill. He wouldn't get involved at all."

13. Martin Dwyer - Elshadi;
"The tactics didn't work. We tried to drop in him in and he just didn't come down the hill. He sulked. We've always made the running before - we tried something different and it didn't come off."

14. Jamie Spencer - Meath;
"There were no excuses. He wasn't good enough."