Fallon moving through the gears
Form and confidence returning as winners mount for the veteran jockey
Thursday 10 September 2009
Nothing, manifestly, can ever be taken for granted with this man. So far, however, it must be said that Kieren Fallon's comeback has not only been entirely in keeping with a career of extremes, but also far more suggestive of peaks than troughs. After riding a treble at Folkestone on Monday, yesterday he began the Ladbrokes St Leger meeting with a 21-1 double in the sunshine. If he carries on like this, he will look the bet of a lifetime for that seventh jockeys' championship in 2010. He has quickly made Ryan Moore's rivals, during his absence, seem either stale or dilettante.
It was only last Friday that Fallon ended an 18-month worldwide suspension for a failed drugs test, having previously been prohibited from riding in Britain for a similar period on account of what proved a risible prosecution at the Old Bailey. At first, moreover, he looked every bit as rusty as might be expected. Individual cogs remained in place but the transmission, between instinct and deed, was no less clearly snagging and slipping.
Since riding that critical first winner, at Wolverhampton on Saturday night, something has snapped back into place. His three winners at Folkestone came from four rides; the other one was beaten in a photo. After drawing a blank at Goodwood the next day, Fallon arrived here to ride a colt named Audacity Of Hope in the opener. For much of the race, little seemed to be going right; his mount was wasting energy, and short of room. Once angled to the outside, however, he cut them all down with a flourish.
His next mount was Strike The Deal in the DFS Scarbrough Stakes, highlight of the meeting's first day – not, admittedly, much of a distinction now that its best races have been loaded on to Saturday's card. Dropped to five furlongs, Strike The Deal was taken off his feet, still last and going nowhere with 300 yards to run. But Fallon kept pushing, the horse suddenly began to flow, and they got up to win by a length, going away.
"I wouldn't say it's there yet, but it's coming," he reflected. "With every ride, there's more confidence. It's about getting back into the rhythm. In these bigger fields, especially, you're trying to follow the right one. It's the breeches you follow, more than the colours – you get to know the other jockeys' logos. It's like a game of chess, you're watching every piece on the board, want to know they're all covered."
On Audacity Of Hope, for instance, his original intention was to head inside. "That's what I'd have done last Friday, and I'd have got stuck," he admitted. "But I could see plenty of them going nicely, and they would have got the splits before me, and then I'd be chasing. So I took him wide instead. On the first day, I was trying to make things happen, but it's when you ride with confidence that you make least mistakes."
Fallon's morale had already been boosted by an approach from no less a trainer than Andre Fabre to ride in the Arc trials at Longchamp on Sunday. His agent, however, has expressed a bemusing preference for sending him to Ffos Las instead.
In the meantime, he has some important mounts for Luca Cumani, the man who supplied him with all three of his Folkestone winners. Today he rides Fantasia, brilliant winner of the Nell Gwyn Stakes in the spring before twice disappointing in Classics, in the JRA Sceptre Stakes; and tomorrow he partners Seta, already favourite for the Stan James 1,000 Guineas after winning a Newmarket maiden by eight lengths, in the DFS May Hill Stakes.
What's more, his mount in the opener today, Coordinated Cut, has already been backed for next year's Investec Derby. Like Monitor Closely, who runs in the big one on Saturday, this Montjeu colt is trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam for the young City lion, Lawrie Inman, who paid 325,000 guineas for him as a yearling. Sky Bet have laid Coordinated Cut at 50-1 for Epsom, and offer 33-1 before his debut today.
Even by Fallon's standards, finding a Derby colt within a week seems a bit much to ask. Still, as he said himself: "In this game, the one thing you do need is luck. I know you make your own, as well, but you can't do without it."
Remarkably, despite being flat out, he got Strike The Deal home without once reaching for the whip. It was almost as though he won by force of personality. He still has a long way to go, of course, and it will always be day by day. But whether or not he knows how Audacity Of Hope was named, he has plainly absorbed the message. In everything he is doing, he is saying exactly the same: "Yes we can."
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Queen of Thebes (9.05 Kempton) Caught the eye on her return from a break at Lingfield last week, short of room before finishing fast – all in all showing renewed signs of life, having dropped sharply down the handicap earlier in the season.
To Be Or Not To Be (7.35 Kempton) Shaped as if poised to hit form at Thirsk last time, making a commendable impact from off a steady pace, and returns to the course and distance of her first success last winter.
One to watch
Violent Velocity (John Quinn) looked better than ever when foiled only by a flourishing rival at York on Sunday. He would have given him a real race had he not met traffic at the rear.
Where the money's going
Alfred Nobel is 13-8 from 9-4 with William Hill for the Ladbrokes National Stakes at the Curragh on Saturday.
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