When the going gets tough, the tough ride winners. Kieren Fallon, the beleaguered champion jockey, bounced back from one of the worst weeks of his turbulent life by taking the first two races at Kempton yesterday.
When the going gets tough, the tough ride winners. Kieren Fallon, the beleaguered champion jockey, bounced back from one of the worst weeks of his turbulent life by taking the first two races at Kempton yesterday. The Irishman had not been successful at what he does best since before his arrest and subsequent release on bail on Wednesday, but his pair was only enough to keep him eight ahead of Frankie Dettori in the race for this year's jockeys' title, for the Italian hit back with a four-timer.
Fallon, though, was on his best professional behaviour as he rode like a demon, acknowledged the support of the crowd with a wide smile and gave generous (a cynic might say unaccustomedly so) responses to media questions about his mounts' performances. His body language was not that of a man with any guilty conscience and racegoers clearly still regard him as a punter's pal. If the events of the past few days niggled, his run of 21 losers stretching back six days probably irked him more. "That first win today gave me confidence again," he said. "And once you have that it gets a bit easier. You get good days and bad days in the saddle, but that's the way the game goes."
The way the game goes in a wider sense, with the current crop of image-damaging accusations and investigations into alleged hooky races, remains to be seen. In any area of life involving the potential to make large sums of money there will be those who seek to do so dishonestly and it is true that those most closely involved hands-on with horses - trainers and, in particular, jockeys - have the greatest opportunity for manipulation.
The relationship between the racing and bookmaking industries is symbiotic, and duels between the two sides are part of the sport's legend and attraction. The new phenomenon of betting exchanges, which allow the man in the street to lay horses, has been blamed for a perceived increase in dodgy practice, but it can also be said that all the exchanges have done is to throw what has always existed into sharp and transparent relief.
The much-bandied term "race-fixing" gives an exaggerated impression of skulduggery, for there is no question of whole results being decided beforehand. All anyone needs to know is not a certain winner, but a certain loser, which can then be laid with impunity. For this reason, licensed bookmakers have traditionally had moles in stables and jockeys are first-line suspects. If corruption is rife, the cleansing of the Augean stables would be an appropriate model and, in terms of the sport's integrity, a welcome one.
On the track yesterday, there was plenty to showcase racing's good side. At Kempton, the five-year-old Mamool threw down his credentials for the Melbourne Cup in splendidly determined style with a half-length victory in the September Stakes. The Godolphin colourbearer broke a hind fetlock in last year's Flemington highlight, and it says much for his courage as well as the blue team's patient care that he was able to dig so deep to first catch trailblazing Bandari, never an easy task, and then fend off Alkaased. "He's done us so proud," said Dettori, who also won on Tidal, Storm Silk and Leg Spinner. "He had a bad injury and there was a time when it seemed he might not race again." Fallon took the opener with a fine front-running ride on Mystical Girl and the following Sirenia Stakes with a typically robust performance on Satchem, a two-year-old having his first run for Clive Brittain and Sheikh Mohammed's son Sheikh Hamdan.
At Haydock, Tante Rose took the last Group One speed test of the domestic season, the six-furlong Sprint Cup, by the width of her whiskers in beating last year's winner Somnus with the last bob of her head. Richard Hughes brought the four-year-old filly, a 10-1 shot, with a perfectly-timed late flourish and her trainer Roger Charlton saddled third-placed Patavellian for good measure. The well-supported 6-4 favourite One Cool Cat could finish only sixth, behind Royal Millennium and Monsieur Bond. Tante Rose is now unbeaten in three runs since her 350,000-guinea purchase by owner Bjorn Neilsen at last year's auction dispersal of Wafic Said's stock. "She has an amazing turn of foot but she needs a target and if I'd gone any earlier she would have seen too much daylight," said Hughes.
Today's top-level focus is in Germany, where Mubtaker, Gamut and Warrsan take another step to the Arc in the Grosser-Preis von Baden; in France, where Lucky Story and Le Vie dei Colori challenge the best French milers in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp; and in Ireland, where Jewel In The Sand leads the raiding party for the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.