Kieren Fallon began yesterday with the apparently good news that an appeal to the Jockey Club had culminated in the easing of his suspension from the Scottish Derby. As a consequence, the champion jockey gets an extra afternoon of activity here this afternoon.
Yet if it transpires to be anything like yesterday, Fallon will wonder if it was worth the legal fees. Everywhere the Irishman went on the opening day of the Glorious meeting he found something humiliating, usually big, brown and horse-shaped. It was as if the conspiracy to stop him winning yet another title had started just here, amid the showers, at the base of Trundle Hill.
Fallon's good fortune appeared to have stretched to the opening race, in which he came in for a chance ride on the favourite, Persian Lightning. Pat Eddery, the booked rider, missed the contest because of "traffic problems". Fallon took over and suffered from a similar eventuality. Persian Lightning may not have collided with all 14 runners in his race, but he had a good go. He finished 10th.
Then it was on to the good racing. The Gordon Stakes is nominally a trial for the St Leger, but, as the mizzle descended, the Group Three contest plummeted into a roughhouse. Fallon, in the Kris Kin colours aboard Hawk Flyer, was almost brought down at the high point of the Downs in a scrummage that also involved the St Leger aspirants High Accolade and Phoenix Reach. Darryll Holland, on the latter, emerged from the intertwining of limbs most successfully.
"It was a rough race," the jockey reported. "A few of us wanted the same position but I got there first. Kieren went on his knees and I was just behind him. I had to snatch up so he's done well to win from there. I was back in a striking position at the top of the hill. He's a true Leger horse."
It was a commendable performance from Phoenix Reach on just the third outing of his career. He is a well-named colt, as his competitive life appeared to have been aborted following a gallops accident as a juvenile.
"He had a very bad split pastern as a two-year-old, a fracture that actually went right up into the fetlock," Andrew Balding, who was recording his first training success at this meeting, said. "He had to have three screws and a pin in his near fore pastern. He was on the verge of not being able to race again. It was a 50-50 chance. It will always be a major worry. Everything from now on is a bonus."
High Accolade, who finished with a flourish to be just a short-head runner-up, came out as the moral winner as he was conceding 5lb. The Leger ante-post favourite may now be afforded another opportunity to show his prowess in the Great Voltigeur. Third-placed Hawk Flyer remains favourite for the Ebor Handicap, also at York.
The third act in the Fallon tragedy came in the Lennox Stakes and his partnership with Arakan. Sir Michael Stoute's colt was piloted fruitlessly up the inner rail until it became clear the key had been swallowed. Then came another charge and another materialisation of a moral winner as Arakan was switched round the whole field to the outside. His spurt failed by a head.
Up front, Nayyir held on by a head to record his second successive victory in the Group Two race and arrest another, even more drawn out bad run, one which stretched back 28 days for Gerard Butler's Blewbury stables. "It's been a sticky time, but we've just kept our heads down," the trainer said. "This horse was our flagship last year and, this year, he's our admiral. I knew he would dig us out of the hole."
Nayyir too has endured a troubled past. They almost threw a blanket over him just before Christmas. "This poor guy nearly died on us," Butler said. "He went out to Hong Kong weighing 517 kilos and two days later he was down to 475 kilos. He got very depressed, wouldn't eat or drink and got colitis, which is extreme diarrhoea. Our vets in Newbury had to fly over with plasma for him because they did not have any in Hong Kong. He nearly died."
The faith in Kieren Francis Fallon had almost expired too until the Group Two Richmond Stakes arrived. But there were no tight west Sussex bends with which to contend here and few horses to get in the way of Brian Meehan's Carrizo Creek. He won by just about as easy half a length as possible to reward another man who has been on his knees in the desert. "This is a very, very good horse," Meehan, who was enjoying his first success for over three weeks, said.
"Without sounding overconfident, he toyed with his rivals today. He's in the Gimcrack, but we'll play it by ear and the Middle Park sounds the ideal plan. He's got lots of talent and would be my best juvenile at the moment."Reuse content