Champion jockey Kieren Fallon became embroiled in controversy yesterday at Brighton after he landed a substantial gamble on a previously unraced horse as a last-minute replacement for a young apprentice who had ridden only once in public before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Jockey Club is to investigate the circumstances.
A few minutes before the deadline for jockey changes, Fallon was booked to ride Hanton instead of 7lb-claimer Karl Bowman, who was reported to be stuck in traffic and did not arrive in time for the 3.00 race, a selling stakes over six furlongs.
The two-year-old filly, trained by Mark Wallace in Newmarket, had been a 14-1 shot in the Racing Post betting forecast, but opened on course at 5-2 before drifting to 5-1 and then hardening again to 7-4 favourite.
Those who enjoy conspiracy theories will cite the disparity between the long morning price and the exchanges on the track. Bets recorded in the ring included ones of £2,750-£1,000, £2,250-£1,000 (twice) and £2,000-£1,000 (three times).
It took all of Fallon's strength and experience to get Hanton, who ran babyishly, home by a neck from the most obvious fancy on form in the field of seven, Costa del Sol.
After the race, a low-grade type in which the winner is immediately offered for sale at auction, Wallace and owner David Hanlon went to the exceptionally high price of 28,000 guineas, by some way a record for the track, to retain their horse.
Wallace has made a bright start to his training career in this his first season with a licence. "We did fancy the filly quite a lot but the intention absolutely was to let the lad ride her," said the Irishman. "She is a bit tricky and he knows her well.
"That he did not get to the track in time to ride her was just one of those things," Wallace insisted. "Once I knew he was not going to make it I looked for the best other jockey available, and that was Kieren, who has ridden several winners for me. As it turned out and the way she ran, it was maybe lucky that he did end up riding her. I know what it all must look like but I have no problem at all with any investigation."
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