As a man who thrives on momentum, Kieren Fallon has been transparently impatient with a fitful start to his season. He has already changed his agent, in fact, and it was easy to perceive how vexed he felt even after his first headline success of the campaign yesterday. For while Native Khan did more than enough to warrant a crack at the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, back here a fortnight tomorrow, Fallon is likely to end up an exasperated spectator of the first Classic.
As things stand, Fallon will be serving a 10-day suspension after failing to ride out to the line when collared for second in a race at Kempton on Wednesday night. The offence was so marginal that his punishment is likely to offend the sense of equity in all, perhaps, but those few whose objectivity is diluted by a foiled forecast wager. Strictly speaking, Fallon ceased pushing in the final couple of strides, but he might very well have lost second regardless. You would have to take a pretty literal view of a horse's response capacity – and rate of deceleration – to imagine it must be ridden frantically even in the shadow of the post. For horses, no less than jockeys, momentum can be everything.
Fallon will duly appeal, but did not sound terribly optimistic after Native Khan twisted the knife in the Craven Stakes. "I won't be holding my breath," he admitted. "It's unfortunate, in a race at Kempton worth 1,700 quid, when I was doing my best and thought I'd ridden to the line. I think the second would have caught me anyway. Still, there's no shortage of good jockeys around to ride a horse like this."
In a market so dominated by Frankel, of course, there would sooner seem a shortage of decent mounts for those jockeys. Even so, it was precisely because he would also be available in the Guineas that Native Khan's owners had asked Ed Dunlop to book Fallon here.
The grey is 14-1 from 20-1 with Totesport, having readily outpaced his rivals through the Dip, just needing a couple of slaps to regain his attention after idling in front. His only defeat, in four career starts, remains when fourth in the Racing Post Trophy last autumn. "And I blame myself for that," Dunlop said. "We dropped him out on slow ground, and we should have come here and taken on Frankel in the Dewhurst instead. The ground is very important to him, as a beautiful mover, and he won't be going anywhere with a hint of soft."
That is likely to decide connections between the Guineas and the French equivalent, but Dunlop seemed clear that he would rather keep this rather buzzy colt on his home racecourse. "Kieren said he would improve a lot," he said. "It was an afterthought to come here, because with the spring being so dry he'd been able to do plenty of work, but I'm very pleased we did. He is quite inexperienced, and has obviously come down the hill well out there."
It was two lengths back to Libranno, who had enjoyed the run of things in front and only just held the promising Yaseer, regrouping nicely after being caught flat-footed. As always, this meeting has quickened anticipation for the months ahead. This time round, moreover, the excitement can be shared by Godolphin, who have seldom landed running in recent springs. Midsummer Fair was another striking winner for Mahmood al-Zarooni yesterday, again drawing attention to the blossoming talent of Mickael Barzalona. You look at the French teenager, and you look at Fallon, and you can see why jockeys always say the same: either things are happening for you, or they aren't.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Caraboss (3.15 Newbury) Several winners have graduated from her maiden and sure to be better over this kind of distance.
El Muqbil (2.10 Newbury) Better off at this trip and on a fair mark.
One to watch
Air Traffic (Henry Cecil) Missed the break at Newmarket yesterday but eventually raked through into second.
Where the money's going
Paul Hanagan is 15-8 from 9-4 with William Hill to retain the jockeys' championship.