Racing: Fallon flies back to storm of criticism and three-week ban

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The Independent Online

Kieren Fallon returned to Britain from Spain yesterday and got no further than the airport arrivals lounge before being hit by the full force of the storm caused by newspaper allegations relating to his riding of Ballinger Ridge at Lingfield last week.

Faced by a barrage of photographers and reporters, Fallon and a rather more burly associate, pushed their way through the throng, scattering cameras and mobile phones in their wake, made a dash for the exit and, in time-honoured fashion, sped off in a silver Mercedes. Wearing dark glasses clearly had not quite done the trick.

Fallon may have been in a hurry to explain some of the more lurid allegations in the News of the World to his family, but there was no need for haste to get back on the racecourse as he was yesterday banned by the Jockey Club for 21 days for the offence of failing to ride out Ballinger Ridge to the line.

The horse gets an opportunity today to show exactly what it is capable of when it returns to Lingfield for yet another attempt to break its duck. This time, in the 3.20 race, it will be ridden by its usual rider, Martin Dwyer.

The Jockey Club made it clear yesterday that the 21-day suspension was for a riding offence only, and did not preclude further measures being taken after a close study of the unusual betting patterns surrounding the Lingfield race and also of the News of the World allegations.

In the Lingfield race, Fallon was caught and beaten a short head after easing down when well clear. Yesterday, John Maxse, the Jockey Club public relations director, said: "What has happened this afternoon is that the disciplinary panel has met to consider whether Fallon's riding offence from last week can be considered on its own, and whether it was possible to impose a penalty which would not in any way prejudice any forthcoming investigation or inquiry.

"Having consulted with Kieren Fallon's solicitors and also taken legal advice of our own, it was decided that a 21-day penalty could be imposed for his failure to ride out for first place at Lingfield last week."

The disciplinary panel considered a written statement from Fallon's legal representative which included an admission of a breach of the rule which covers failing to ride out.

The statement acknowledged that acceptance of this admission by the disciplinary panel would not preclude the Jockey Club from inquiring into the matter further.

Maxse said: "The dossier on the newspaper allegations revealed over the weekend will be delivered to the Jockey Club tomorrow evening. We will study that and continue with that investigation, which will include interviews with Kieren Fallon and, if necessary, other riders."

Fallon's lawyer, Christopher Stewart-Moore, said the ban had been agreed to by the jockey. "We have made formal admission of a non-wilful breach of rule 156, covering not riding a horse out to the finish line. I have given him [Fallon] my advice. He has taken my advice and is agreeing to 21 days' suspension. He is ready to deal with the Jockey Club inquiry.

"The Jockey Club is to receive the News of the World transcripts tomorrow. They will then be passed on to me so we can consider them. Kieren can then be interviewed by the Jockey Club. He has to co-operate and he will co-operate."

Meanwhile at Lingfield yesterday there was no sign that punters are unduly perturbed by last week's incident at the Surrey track. "Of course it wasn't fixed," one regular racegoer said. "I was stood on the rail that day and when Fallon came past me 50 yards from the finish he was riding the ears off that horse. It's not humanly possible to judge it so that you could deliberately get beaten like that.

Another regular added: "To my mind there is no way that it was a bent race. He was just showboating, easing up before the line, like he had in other races. It was only a matter of time before he got found out."

The professional punter Dave Nevison said: "The only issue that matters is whether the Jockey Club can find a link between the two events - between the ride that the horse was given and the bets placed on the race. Until then, all you can say is that it was a bad ride."