Racing: The week Fallon got stronger

Sue Montgomery follows the trials and jubilations of a man who rode controversy
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The Independent Online
The full, unremitting wattage of the critics' spotlight will be back on Kieren Fallon this afternoon at The Curragh when he partners the favourite Yashmak in the Irish Oaks. It is just eight days since he rode Bosra Sham - also trained by Henry Cecil - into a controversial third place in the Eclipse Stakes and attracted more flak than a squadron of Lancasters in the process.

The Irishman's career has been dogged by incident. As well as the usual punishments for riding infringements that are part of a jockey's lot, he has, at various times, been banned or fined for violent conduct (when he tried to drag a rival off his mount), verbally abusing an official, misleading the Jockey Club stewards and hitting a horse over the head. His experience at the top level is limited, and his appointment as No 1 rider at Cecil's powerful Newmarket yard for this season came as something of a surprise.

But the past week has been a roller-coaster ride even by his standards. Mistakes, castigation, defence, redemption and conciliation have followed swiftly one upon the other in racing's latest soap opera, which reaches another potentially dramatic episode of its plot this afternoon.

Will Fallon and Cecil grab the Group One glory this time? Will they be thwarted by Aidan O'Brien's three-pronged attack on four Irish Classics in a row, or Mick Kinane's bid for an Oaks double. Tune in on BBC2 at 4.20.

Saturday 5 July: Fallon misjudges both pace and position in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown; the hot favourite Bosra Sham is beaten into third place by Pilsudski. The winner is ridden by Mick Kinane, whom Cecil had accused after Ascot of "sabotaging my horses". Cecil leaves Sandown ashen-faced without comment.

Sunday: Cecil mounts an extraordinary thinly veiled attack on his stable jockey without actually naming him. "Everyone has a pair of eyes," he said. "It was appalling, and if people couldn't see what was happening then they shouldn`t go racing but go to the theatre instead. It was an horrific experience for all concerned. "

Fallon, riding in Hamburg, is beaten a neck in the German Derby. He is defensive about the Eclipse, with even a hint of paranoia, saying: "There was nothing I could have done. The whole race was planned to go against me."

Monday: Fallon loses the ride on Cecil-trained Lady Carla, who is, like Bosra Sham, owned by the Syrian businessman Wafic Said, and is due to run in the big race the following day. A win at Bath and two at Windsor take Fallon to 81 in the jockeys' table, seven ahead of Frankie Dettori, but he picks up a two-day ban for whip misuse at Windsor.

Tuesday: The first day of the prestige July meeting at Newmarket. Fallon wins the opener on Cecil-trained Craigsteel leads until two furlongs out on Dushyantor in the feature race, the Princess of Wales Stakes, but finishes sixth of seven. The one behind him is Lady Carla. He sees the Irish Oaks candidate Yashmak safely through the stalls test required after her naughty behaviour at Ascot.

Cecil confirms that Fallon has also been "jocked off" Bosra Sham; rumours that he will also be replaced on the 1,000 Guineas winner Sleepytime surface. The trainer loses his temper in public with the racing press, snapping "You're a bloody nuisance, the lot of you" as he is quizzed.

Fallon is eight clear of Dettori after two more winners for other stables at Windsor in the evening, and says of losing Bosra Sham: "There are 200 other horses in the yard and I hope I can ride them."

Wednesday: Harmony appears to be restored. In a statement Cecil stands by his man, quashing speculation that Fallon was on the brink of losing his job, and makes his peace with journalists. "I think he did make a mistake, but you don't cut someone's throat for that.

"He is stable jockey at Warren Place now and will be again next year." And with impeccable timing Fallon responds in spades by hitting the headlines for the right reasons. He rides a quartet of winners for his guv'nor, showing his effectiveness with two head victories after forceful, no-quarter battles to the nine.

Three of the winners were for Khalid Abdullah, owner of Yashmak. The fourth is a two-year-old prospect for future glory that no jockey would want to lose. He has an interesting name: Daggers Drawn.

Thursday: A further vote of confidence as the rumours about Sleepytime are officially denied by her owners. Fallon rides one winner from four rides for Cecil, on Abdullah's Baltic State, but receives a caution for raising his whip above the limit of shoulder height. The jockey's table score is Fallon 90, Dettori 80.

Friday: The circus moves to York, where Fallon entrenches his position by partnering Ali-Royal to victory, in the Sleepytime colours of the American sportsman Charles Wacker III.

Yesterday: Another good day at the office as Fallon finishes his turbulent week on a high note with two winners for Cecil at York, to take his annual score to 95, and stride 11 clear of Dettori.

He said: "I am really looking forward to riding Yashmak. Judging by her last two pieces of work, she is better than ever, though I would not want the ground too firm. She is an easy filly to ride, you can put her anywhere, really. And at least if you are handy, you can stay out of trouble."

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