It was a stifling day in the capital, and there was no air conditioning in the courtroom - just a fan near the judge, to assist dispassionate assessment of the question that has set the British Turf ablaze. Turned over to lawyers, of course, the topic soon became arid, and ultimately an adjournment was called until today. But if the clock sometimes seemed to have stopped, then those in the High Court were merely being granted an insight into how time will drag for Kieren Fallon if his lawyers fail in their purpose.
They will discover this morning whether they have persuaded Mr Justice Davis to quash the suspension of Fallon's licence to ride in Britain, pending his trial on a charge of conspiracy to defraud punters. Fallon is still able to ride in Ireland - indeed, he rode a winner at Limerick last night - because the Turf Club considers that a suspension would offend the principle that he remains innocent unless proven otherwise. But the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA) is claiming that it has made no judgment other than on the potential consequences for the sport's reputation, if Fallon were allowed to ride while facing such a grave charge.
The problem is that it may take up to two years for Fallon to clear his name in court. He insists that the accusations against him are preposterous, and that his prohibition from British races represents an iniquitous assumption in their favour. At 41, Fallon is a champion in his pomp and his counsel, David Pannick QC, argued that he had been treated unfairly and unreasonably. The consequences of his suspension would be "disastrous".
The renewal of his contract for the owners of Coolmore Stud - and his status as one of the world's leading riders - was imperilled by an inability to ride in the big British races. "Mr Fallon is entitled to put his case before he is suspended," Pannick said. "And before he suffers from the serious detriments that flow from that."
Once he lost the Coolmore retainer, racing in Ireland would leave his income inadequate to his financial commitments to dependants, which exceed £200,000 a year. Pannick argued that the HRA's action was not proportionate. "Given the irreparable harm to Mr Fallon, there is a need for a strong over-riding factor justifying suspension," he said. "We say there is none."
He also claimed that the HRA had been wrong not to consider evidence from Fallon - race videos and transcripts of police interviews - to show the weakness of the case against him.
"We want to advance those arguments in private," Pannick said. "To hear what Fallon wants to say is an important factor in the weighing of the balance... I am not seeking to persuade you today - nor would it be appropriate to do so - that the substantive case against Kieren Fallon is weak. My complaint is that we have a right to be heard."
But Mark Warby QC, counsel for the HRA, argued that the sport's ruling body had come to the "difficult and anxious decision" to suspend Fallon because he was among 11 people facing "the most serious criminal charges brought in relation to racing in a generation".
In its original verdict, the HRA emphasised that it could hardly disregard the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service considered the evidence against Fallon sufficient to justify a charge.
Confirming that ruling, its Appeal Board said that it would be improper and impractical to make any judgment on the merits of a case that had already accumulated 40,000 pages of evidence. "We know the case against Mr Fallon is substantial," Warby said. "He has but a fraction of the evidence that will be relied on, and will not have the rest of it for many weeks."
There could be no better example of what is at stake for Fallon and his employers than the appearance of their champion, Hurricane Run, at Ascot tomorrow. The Arc winner was one of just six horses declared yesterday for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. The defection of Soapy Danger means that there will be no three-year-old in the field. The owner's racing manager, Gary Coffey, explained: "We just felt he has come a long way in a short space of time. We have no definite plans but he does hold a St Leger entry."
Cherry Mix will set a good gallop for Electrocutionist, the renewed momentum of whose stable can be measured by the fact that Godolphin accounted for four of the 15 candidates still in the Cantor Spreadfair Sussex Stakes at Goodwood on Wednesday.
These include Echo Of Light, who was supplemented yesterday - an intention revealed in The Independent last week. Meanwhile Desert Authority, a Fantastic Light colt, made a stylish debut for the stable at Sandown yesterday.
NB: Royal Oath
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