Racing: Holland's title aspirations dented by fall

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Flat racing's original curse is supposedly owned by the family of Lord Carnarvon, whose forebear apparently stirred up hell itself by sponsoring the expedition which opened up the burial tomb of Tutankhamen, the boy king.

When considering this dreaded spell, it is perhaps best to ignore the comparatively flourishing fortunes of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, the syndicate machine which appears to have been sprinkled with fairy dust instead of remains from the grave. It rather ruins the story.

More pertinent may be the hoodoo which has struck another element of the turf, that of the jockeys' championship. Not long after Kieren Fallon had given an interview earlier this year on his desire to keep the riders' cup came the news that he was to be investigated for bringing racing into disrepute.

If nothing else happens, the Irishman has already learned that it is not the harbinger of great fortune to talk big in front of people wearing Arab robes, whomever they may claim to be. The prospective punishment for Fallon remains the single most influential factor on the championship.

Yet it may be that the champion has been supping from a poisoned chalice. No sooner had second-placed Darryll Holland uttered his most positive noises yet about wresting the title than the fates lifted him out of the saddle and on to the slippery turf at Bath yesterday.

Within the weighing room, Fallon is something of a god himself and few can imagine the day when he will not be top dog. Frankie Dettori remains a hugely respected figure for what he has done to elevate the status of jockeyship, but the Italian's devotion to duty at only the higher levels is recognised as a barrier to success at the numbers game. Thus Ladbrokes quote him at 8-1 for the championship.

Holland is different. He keeps his own counsel in the jockeys' quarters and is perhaps the only man who can plot a coup in the knowledge that, one day, he might be king. When Ladbrokes offered 5-1 about the Mancunian yesterday at 12.40, with Fallon at 1-5, they were soon accommodated. At 1.46, "Dazzler" was down to 4-1, but then the clouds started swirling.

The stewards were forced to inspect at Bath after a race in which two horses slipped on the bend into the straight. A deputation of jockeys and trainers accompanied the stewards to the area where Value Plus and Miss Cassia came down, resulting in heavy falls for their riders, Holland and Pat Dobbs respectively.

There was a lengthy delay before the officials, who had consulted the jockeys Jimmy Quinn, Steve Drowne and Fergus Sweeney, together with trainers Henry Candy and Patrick Chamings, announced that racing would continue. Holland, who was stood down for the day, had somersaulted when hitting the ground and sustained widespread bruising. He was being monitored by the course doctor, Peter Phillips, while Dobbs received a kick on his left leg but was otherwise uninjured.

While he contemplates his injuries, Holland can at least send up thanks to Arcalis, Saturday's John Smith's Cup winner, who denied Fallon another victory when getting up close home to beat The Queen's Promotion at York.

Arcalis has now won both his starts on the level since being bought privately out of Lynda Ramsden's stable by Graham Wylie, the computer man with a penchant for jumps racing. It seems the National Hunt sphere remains the grey's playground.

"I haven't spoken to Mr Wylie, but I don't think Arcalis will run on the Flat again," Howard Johnson, the trainer, said yesterday. "I bought him to go hurdling - that was the plan and I will stick to it. He will probably have a two-month break and then go hurdling. Those two wins were a bonus. Besides, the handicapper will hit him now and he will have to go near enough into Listed class now.

"We will have to school him but I think he will go very well over hurdles - he looks tailor-made for the big novices' hurdle at Aintree. He has plenty of speed but he can switch off and tuck in, and I think he will go on any ground."

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