Fallon draws criticism for obeying trainer's orders

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It took a day and a half, but finally they managed it. Approaching lunchtime yesterday, Kieren Fallon's counsel implored Ray Murrihy just to answer his question "yes or no". Sure enough, the expert witness from Australia replied: "Yes."

If anything, however, John Kelsey-Fry QC seemed to find this answer still more exasperating than any of the qualifications, stipulations, conditions and riders he had been offered previously. "In that case, Mr Murrihy, I don't have anything else to ask," he said, sitting down with a sigh.

They had been discussing Fallon's performance on Beauvrai at Yarmouth in August 2004, the last of 17 rides by the six-times champion jockey to be reviewed by the chief steward of New South Wales. Fallon is one of six men charged with conspiracy to defraud customers of the online betting exchange, Betfair. The others include two other jockeys, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams. All the defendants plead not guilty.

Five of these 17 horses won, including Beauvrai, who started odds-on for a claimer. Having asked Murrihy about the Australian practice of trainers notifying stewards of riding instructions before a race, Kelsey-Fry asked whether he would have any problem with a trainer telling him that he wanted a horse with a history of bleeding, racing on testing ground, to miss the break, keep cover, and challenge as late as possible. Kelsey-Fry, having shown that Beauvrai had at least 13lb in hand of the field on official ratings, suggested that these would be a perfectly reasonable way of keeping the horse's exertions to a minimum.

But Murrihy refused to condone the strategy of missing the break deliberately over six furlongs, and then riding as quietly as Fallon did, before delivering the horse at the last minute. He said that odds of 4-6 about Beauvrai were "better than bank interest but it's not a 1-10 chance and horses can get beat". In the circumstances, it was "simply not appropriate" to miss the break by design.

Kelsey-Fry asked if he would be critical of such instructions. "I wouldn't approve of the instructions," Murrihy said. "And I would not approve of the ride." So would he expect a jockey to disobey a trainer's orders? He retorted that jockeys were under no obligation to follow orders "chapter and verse", especially if instructions were "simply ridiculous or put you in breach of the rules".

With his patience apparently waning, Kelsey-Fry then asked Murrihy if he would, in the given circumstances, be critical of Fallon for following such instructions in winning the race? It was at this point that he beseeched him to answer yes or no, and then abandoned his cross-examination.

After lunch, Mr Justice Forbes responded to a query passed from the jury, as to whether Fallon had in fact received such instructions from the trainer of Beauvrai? He explained that Kelsey-Fry had indicated as much in his opening statement, though the evidence was still to be called.

Earlier Murrihy had objected to Fallon's failure to take an opening along the rail when finishing second on Lost Soldier Three at Newbury the same month. Showing him a head-on video, Kelsey-Fry suggested that Johnny Murtagh must be no less culpable, having declined the rail on the winner as well, instead forcing a gap through runners.

Murrihy said that Fallon's need was greater, because he was behind Murtagh. Kelsey-Fry asked Murrihy whether he knew why jockeys were reluctant to challenge between a tiring leader and the rail? But Murrihy rejected any assumption that the leader, though whipped with the right hand, would necessarily roll left and so close the gap.

He had also expressed concern over the way Fallon, riding at Goodwood the next day, held up Goodwood Spirit in the early stages. He accepted suggestions that the horse had broken awkwardly and then begun to hang.

Reading a police transcript, Kelsey-Fry said that an investigating officer had suggested to Murrihy that it was "not strong". Murrihy had replied: "No, it's not strong, because you have got nothing else there."

Repeatedly pressed to explain what "it" and "strong" might mean, Murrihy reiterated to Kelsey-Fry that he had no problem with Fallon's ride, other than his failure to take the horse forward early.

The case continues.