A brief statement issued by Sir Michael Stoute yesterday finally confirmed what the racecourse rumour-mongers had been claiming for weeks: Kieren Fallon, the champion jockey-elect, has lost his job as Stoute's stable jockey next season, apparently because a number of his owners no longer want the Irishman on their horses. Since Fallon is most punters' idea of the best rider in the business, the news may seem perverse. Seasoned Fallon-watchers, though, may simply point out that after a series of ladders in recent months, another snake in his giddy career was long overdue.
"My stable will not be retaining a jockey for the 2002 season," Stoute said. "Not all of my owners wish to use Kieren Fallon, but his association with the stable will continue with those that do. Kieren assures me that he is keen to do so."
Fallon took up his post at Freemason Lodge in Newmarket at the start of last season, having left his job as first jockey to Henry Cecil in lurid fashion the previous summer. The new partnership scored an immediate major success with King's Best in the 2,000 Guineas, but a serious fall at Royal Ascot less than two months later brought Fallon's season to a premature end.
The Guineas was good to them again this year, when Fallon came from last to first to win on Golan, and there have been valuable wins too on Medicean, in the Lockinge, the Queen Anne Stakes and the Eclipse, and on No Excuse Needed in the Celebration Mile. But Fallon also received an embarrassingly public dressing-down from the late Lord Carnarvon, the Queen's racing manager, after he had finished fourth on her filly Flight Of Fancy in the Musidora at York. Carnarvon described his riding as "awful", and it now emerges that some of the other owners at Stoute's yard also have their doubts.
We should get a fair idea of who the sceptics are next season, assuming that Stoute will indeed continue to book Fallon for horses whose owners are happy to use him. It will be interesting, for instance, to see how often Fallon pulls on the green and red silks of the Aga Khan, who is thought to have been unimpressed by the jockey's ride on his filly Karasta in the 1,000 Guineas. Karasta started favourite for the Classic at 9-2, but pulled very hard and finished 13th of 15.
Fallon seems sure to be riding for the Cheveley Park Stud, owners of Medicean, however. "Our policy has always been to use the best jockey available and we have used Kieren with great success," Chris Richardson, the stud's managing director, said yesterday. "There has never been any question of us having a jockey on a retainer but we would be happy to continue to have Kieren riding for us when he can."
The loss of his retainer will leave a hole in Fallon's bank account, but he is likely to miss the horses more. He said earlier this year he would not set off in hot pursuit of the championship next season, and concentrate instead on quality. The prime source of much of that quality may now be closed off.
Stoute's decision not to employ a stable jockey next season will also prompt speculation about the seasons after that. The obvious rising star of the moment is another Irishman, Jamie Spencer, who is retained by Luca Cumani. That contract has 12 months to run, though, which at the very least is a happy coincidence for the racecourse gossips.
Johnny Murtagh, who registered Group or Grade One successes for the stable last year with Kalanisi, Petrushka, Greek Dance and Dilshaan, will also hope to pick up a number of good rides next season.
"I'm very flattered to be associated with the job," Murtagh said yesterday, "but Sir Michael has not spoken to me and I haven't spoken to him about it. He's always said he'll use the best jockeys available and I'd like to think I fall into that category. I have ridden some great horses for him and I hope that I can ride some more."
Fallon appeared in philosophical mood when he reflected yesterday on the end of his retainer with Stoute: "I read somewhere that we had had a row that is news to me, I don't think there has been a cross word between us this year. I believe some owners want other jockeys to ride their horses and that is fair enough."Reuse content