Racing: Dettori keeps up championship chase as Fallon returns

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The Independent Online

Kieren Fallon returned to the saddle here yesterday, but the only hands being dropped were those of the bookmakers deep into their satchels when the champion jockey rode the well-backed winner of the last.

That success, aboard Petardias Magic, was a welcome climax to what had been proving a slow afternoon for Fallon, returning after a 21-day ban for failing to ride out Ballinger Ridge at Lingfield last month. The 39-year-old has not heard the last of "the winner that never was" either, as he faces a Jockey Club inquiry into comments made about that race and others to an undercover newspaper reporter.

The outcome of that disrepute charge will go a long way to deciding whether Fallon will be retaining his jockey's title this season, as will Frankie Dettori's decision over whether he is prepared to direct his seemingly boundless energies to the fight.

The Italian has been making hay while Fallon has "been playing some golf, riding some lots", as he highlighted with a five-timer last week. Dettori has been telling whoever is prepared to listen that his refusal to fly to evening meetings will rule him out of the race, but anyone who sees his name printed on the Musselburgh card this Easter Sunday may not be as quick to dismiss his chances. "I'll even have to get my skates on if I'm going to get to my target of 150 winners," he insisted, but on this form he might be well advised to leave his slippers on.

Yesterday saw a relatively modest return of two from seven for Dettori, although one of those in question was nonchalance personified. Richard Hills looked booked-in as the winner when he kicked Mutahayya on three furlongs out in the Listed one-mile Easter Stakes before Dettori brought Privy Seal with a exquisitely timed run to land it for John Gosden on the line.

Sheikh Mohammed's three-year-old is not entered in the Derby, and although Gosden is not talking supplementary entries yet, the Newmarket trainer will give yesterday's 9-1 shot a whirl in a more recognisable trial for Epsom. "Frankie said after he was fifth in the Royal Lodge last year that he's a mile-and-a-quarter horse, and the next step will be the Sandown Classic Trial," said Gosden.

It had been much the same earlier in the afternoon in the fillies' Classic trial, the Masaka Stakes, where Richard Hills and John Dunlop were similarly non-committal over the performance of their odds-on favourite, Hathrah, who left her sisters for dead with a nine-length procession.

The wily Victor Chandler tried to entice a few panic backers by posting 14-1 for both the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks, although Dunlop's analysis offered a more realistic assessment. "She did it well, but I don't know how strong the opposition was," he said. "Who knows what the form is worth in terms of our Guineas aspirations."

The day's two big handicap heroes were the evergreen chaser Robbo, who made the claimer Fergus King work for every penny he earned before consenting to get up close home in the three-mile Tote Placepot Handicap at Carlisle, while here the young apprentice Frankie McDonald, was just as energetic in encouraging Silence Is Golden to glory in the Rosebery Handicap. "That's the biggest win of my career and the second since I joined Brian Meehan two months ago," said a blushing McDonald.

Behind Frankie Jnr, with a face just as red, came Fallon, who could not reward the punters who backed Dumaran in to 8-1. Willie Musson's six-year-old responded to the Irishman's urgings a tad too late, finishing a never-nearer three-quarters-of-a-length second, although everyone agreed that it was not for the want of trying. Indeed, there was even a cry of support as Fallon trudged back in: "Welcome back, Fallon. We love you, Kieren." But the fact that it came from a bookie was lost on nobody.