Racing: Fallon's Selfish skills so striking

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The Independent Online
YOU DID not need second sight to know what the crowd at Goodwood yesterday had been digesting with breakfast. Whether they preferred tabloids or broadsheets, cornflakes or bacon, a rummage through the lives of Kieren Fallon and Henry Cecil had been the first item on the menu. You knew, because you had done it yourself.

Cecil and Fallon knew too, of course, but neither man is the sort to hide. So no one should have been surprised when Selfish won the very first race, the Oak Tree Stakes, still less so by the manner of her success. As Cecil hoisted him aboard in the paddock, Fallon knew that he had to hold the filly up for a late run. He could not imagine, though, just how late it would be.

The field was already past the two-furlong pole when Fallon tacked towards the far rail to look for running room, but as soon as he found daylight, the gap started to close. Some, maybe most, jockeys would have carried on regardless, and galloped into impossible trouble. Not Fallon. Alert to the danger, he hauled Selfish around the field to challenge on the outside instead. Taking only a second to get her rousted and running, he set off after Wannabe Grand, the favourite, and caught her with a couple of strides to spare.

It must have given Cecil something to think about as he walked down from the trainers' terrace to welcome them back. Exactly what it is that his horses will miss from Monday morning had been summed up in the space of 15 seconds and at 35 miles an hour. Some of Cecil's owners, too, will have wondered whether even Richard Quinn can truly replace Fallon. Their partnership ends on Sunday, but the fallout could contaminate Warren Place for months to come.

They exchanged few words as Fallon tugged at the girths and threw the saddle over his shoulder. The jockey had opened up a little more half an hour earlier, though, in an interview for the BBC. "Everyone has been great," he said, when asked how much support he had received in the weighing room. "I won't say that all jockeys have been in the same position, but there are always hurdles and obstacles in front of you wherever you go and they understand. It is nice, especially when you have the press, they are like parasites, trying to haunt you all the time and ruin your life. It is nice when you have support, it is a help."

As for the future, Fallon may now spend more time on the northern tracks where he earned his spurs. "I've ridden quite a bit for most trainers even with the position with Henry Cecil," he said. "I would like to spend more time in the north. I like it up there, I enjoy riding there more than down here."

If so, the southern punters will miss him desperately, although Selfish's victory was as good as it got for Fallon yesterday. His followers did at least get a place return on Omaha City, fourth in the William Hill Mile at 16-1, but even Fallon could not improve on Gary Stevens's perfectly- timed run on Lonesome Dude.

Kingsclere, his ride in the Champagne Stakes, was the 11-8 favourite but did not stretch out on the fast ground, finishing fourth of five behind Ekraar, who is a 25-1 chance for the Millennium 2,000 Guineas. Canon Can, meanwhile, his only other ride for Cecil yesterday, was well down the field in the Goodwood Cup.

In fact, everything was well down the field, as Kayf Tara, last year's Gold Cup winner at Ascot, won by four lengths with plenty still to give. Precisely how much may become clear in the Melbourne Cup, for which Kayf Tara was entered yesterday morning.

"It was good to see him win like that on this ground," Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said. "We thought about the Melbourne Cup for him last year but in the end decided that although he was four then, he had not really had enough experience for a race like this. Now he has had more racing and is a year older."

Kayf Tara's chance at Flemington will depend mainly on his weight in the handicap, but also on his reaction to the merciless mood of the Australian runners and jockeys.

How he deals with the most demanding moments of his life will tell us much about him. The same, as it happens, is true of Kieren Fallon.