Fallon delivers a masterclass on home turf
Thursday 07 July 2005
The multiple champion jockey was blown away, mentally and sportingly, in a field which included Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Fallon's playing partner, Lee Westwood. "They play a different game to me," he said. "They embarrassed me."
It is not a sensation the Irishman feels regularly in his own professional sport and he quickly expunged the awkwardness here on the July course yesterday, when it was his turn to dispense humiliation.
Both the main races, both Group Twos, fell to Fallon as the 40-year-old showed the breadth of his virtuosity, pouncing late on Ivan Denisovich in the July Stakes before riding his rivals to sleep from the front of the Princess of Wales's Stakes aboard Gamut. If only the 16-handicapper could play golf like this.
Ivan Denisovich's success was, rather surprisingly, Ireland's first in the July Stakes. The son of Danehill was flopping around in the early stages of the six-furlong contest, but came through to win decisively by two lengths.
"I was further back than I wanted to be," Fallon reported. "I got shuffled back early. Then he idled when he hit the front, like a little baby. I have always liked this colt and if he had run in the Coventry Stakes [at Royal Ascot at York] he'd have won it. He has a big future."
The vexing question posed by this success regarded the pecking order at Aidan O'Brien's yard. Which is their 2,000 Guineas horse: Ivan Denisovich or George Washington? The latter, the winner of another Group Two event, the Railway Stakes at the Curragh, is certainly a favourite of the Ballydoyle tsar, John Magnier.
As Virginia Water was being led in triumphantly after the 1,000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile in May, Magnier darted purposefully across the winners' enclosure, not to greet fellow connections but rather to enquire if his ante-post Classic bet on George Washington had been secured.
The bookmakers cannot split the two young comets (16-1 is available about both) and asking O'Brien to express preference was tantamount to inquiring which one of his children he would give up to cannibals. "I know you'll laugh," he said, "but they haven't worked together because they're on different programmes. The Guineas is a long way away."
The Gimcrack at York is a long-term project for Ivan Denisovich and long-term is all his trainer is now thinking. "He's a very well made horse and a real athlete," O'Brien added. "He's really bouncy and full of life. If he was a human being he would be a bubbly type. We won't be in any panic with him. We won't be firing straight back with him now. He's had three quick enough races."
Lesson two in the Fallon masterclass was conducted in conjunction with old accomplices, equine and human. Gamut was the four-legged friend, burning away all his rivals from the front of the Princess of Wales's Stakes field for his pre-eminent local trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. "I didn't really want to go on but decided to," Fallon said. "My first thought was there might have been a false start. I kicked on when I saw the Channel 4 camera truck go on. He is a really good horse on his day. All he needs is a bit of cut in the ground and he got it here today."
Chief among victims was the 6-5 market leader, Day Flight, though John Gosden, who trains Khalid Abdullah's colt, was still wondering last night what his horse had done to deserve his place in the betting. "He's done nothing wrong today. He's just run up against a horse who was plain too good for him," Gosden said. "I did point out that he'd never run against the likes of Gamut before. Why our horse was favourite over him is beyond me. Day Flight is a nice, genuine horse, but not up to Gamut at his best."
Gamut's quality may not be the same as other Freemason Lodge classy veterans such as Singspiel and Pilsudski, but he will nevertheless be expected to take on the mighty level they used to face.
"We'll throw our hat in the ring and go for the King George [& Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Newbury two weeks on Saturday]," Stoute said. "He's tough and honest and we love having him around. We didn't want to make it, but felt we may have to. He enjoyed himself. He looked good today.
"He's six now so obviously there isn't as much scope for improvement as from three to four or four to five, but he's a very decent standard of horse. I think he's indicated he's as good as ever."
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