The whole dynamic of the jockeys' championship has changed since Kieren Fallon won it for a sixth time, back in 2003. Even so, the milestone he reached yesterday, when riding his 100th winner of the campaign, confirmed he could yet roll back the years at 46. Fallon still ended the afternoon 11 behind the defending champion, Paul Hanagan, but the satisfaction he would obtain from retrieving the title, after all his notorious vicissitudes, guarantees that he will be giving it everything during the coming weeks.
In Fallon's pomp, the meeting at Carlisle next Wednesday would have marked a significant junction in the title race, as the final evening fixture on turf. Nowadays, however, floodlit all-weather fixtures at Wolverhampton and Kempton mean that double shifts remain available to jockeys all the way through to the end of the turf campaign, on 5 November.
Jamie Spencer recently observed that only a small elite could hope to ride 100 winners, when he first arrived from Ireland. These days, he suggested, "nearly anyone can do it". But Fallon recognises that Ryan Moore's injury has presented him with a priceless opportunity. Hanagan is facing stiffer competition on the northern circuit from Silvestre de Sousa, while Fallon has renewed an old link with Moore's employer, Sir Michael Stoute.
Fallon brought up his century at Lingfield with a typically positive ride on the Yorkshire raider Miss Blink. "I'm confident," he said, when asked about his title challenge. "It's going to be tough, so it is, to beat Paul. He's got a strong team for the rest of the year. But I have as well. It'll be tough to pull back a lead of 10 or 11, at this stage, but I'm going to be trying."
Though De Sousa is himself on the brink of 100, Fallon unmistakably has superior momentum, with 18 winners to the Brazilian's six during the fortnight prior to yesterday. William Hill duly cut Fallon to 3-1 from 7-2 for the title, and eased De Sousa to 5-1 from 4-1. Hanagan remains 2-5.
Whatever happens, Fallon has achieved something considerable even in being competitive. Miss Blink's trainer, Robin Bastiman, placed things nicely into perspective. "I've got a picture at home of my son leading Kieren back in after a winner," he said. "My son looks about 15 then – and has passed 30 now."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Divine Call (5.05 Newmarket) Plenty of speed in his pedigree and looks worth this experiment over 6f.
Bothy (7.35 Hamilton) Lightly raced on the Flat since joining this stable, for which he has excelled over hurdles.
One to watch
Spensley (James Fanshawe) Is leniently treated on turf, compared with his all-weather mark, and suggested he will take advantage when failing only narrowly to overcome a steady gallop at Leicester on Tuesday.