In sport, the intimacy between triumph and disaster is often familiar to the point of triteness, but seldom can they have converged quite as vividly as in the case of Kieren Fallon.
Six times champion jockey of Britain, Fallon yesterday reached a new pinnacle in his career by winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the biggest prize on European turf, on Dylan Thomas, the horse he has described as the best he has ridden.
He did so, however, in the knowledge that this morning he will be sitting in the Old Bailey accused of race-fixing.
Along with five other defendants, Fallon denies the allegations. Since being charged 15 months ago, he has not been permitted to ride in Britain, but other racing authorities, including those in his native Ireland, and here in France, have allowed him to continue pending his trial.
Even yesterday, Fallon had to defend himself against a suggestion that he had broken the rules. He had held on only in a photo finish, but then had to endure a lengthy inquiry while the stewards analysed an episode of interference as he had made his challenge.
It is unusual for the stewards to ponder disqualification for more than ten minutes, but they kept the 60,000 spectators here on tenterhooks for 35 before confirming Dylan Thomas the winner. British bookmakers estimated that the decision saved their customers £5m.
For Fallon, it was an foretaste of the leisurely pace of judicial proceedings. He referred to his wait as "the longest ten minutes of my life", and thanked the French rider, Stephane Pasquier, for his refusal to dramatise the interference. Even so, he had been "very worried" that Dylan Thomas would be disqualified.
No one can predict what might emerge in the Old Bailey, but the experience is guaranteed to be a traumatic one for the sport.
Fallon has often demonstrated an icy detachment during his career. When he won this race two years ago, on Hurricane Run, he was due to answer bail the next morning to police investigating the case against him. The same was true when he won the Irish Derby last summer. It was on that occasion, indeed, that Fallon was charged.
His employers at Coolmore Stud have stood by him, but he admitted he had found it difficult to concentrate on his riding during his present distractions. "It has affected my confidence," he said. "It has affected me all year. Hopefully it won't last much longer."Reuse content