Good, bad and ugly year of the jockey is one to remember
Fallon takes centre stage but should not overshadow Dettori's heroics
Horses should come foremost, for it is they who are at the heart of this game, but 2007 could be remembered as the year of the jockey, good, bad and ugly.Courtroom drama, low-life soap opera, farce, fairytale: all were presented and played out over 12 months as riders revealed themselves in all human guises.
The prime candidate for centre stage, with a leading part in several genres, was, of course, Kieren Fallon, outstandingly the best of his generation but the original flawed genius. In January, already suspended from plying his trade in Britain because of the ultimately infamous court case on fraud charges hanging over him, the Irishman was into the first month of a worldwide ban after testing positive for cocaine after a routine drugs test in France. After he returned to riding in Ireland and France in June, he showed none of his talent to be diminished but that his finger was still on the self-destruct button.
Earlier this month a day after the collapse of the Old Bailey trial that left him vindicated in his protestations of innocence, and racing's rulers and the City of London police looking foolish he managed to snatch disaster from the jaws of triumph as it emerged he had yet again failed a drugs test in France.
Within the next two weeks, Fallon will once again stand accused. This time he is likely to face a long global ban, and the signs are that the patience of his employers at Ballydoyle and Coolmore is now wearing thin.
Though Fallon was exoner-ated of one sort of wrongdoing in the clampdown on race-fixingand corruption, other colleagues did their bit to confirm the public's view of racing as seedy and sordid. In February, Robert Winston was banned for a year after being found guilty of passing information for reward and misleading investigators.
As the year drew to a close, the normally sensible Eddie Ahern was stood down for three months. His actions in whipping a horse so hard as to injure it were judged to have been part of a calculated plan to trigger an inevitable ban hanging over him for serial riding offences to take place during the low-key winterseason. His cynicism backfired badly as he became the firstjockey to bring the sport into disrepute. At least officially.
But set against the weighing-room own-goals came some glorious Exocets into the top corner. At Epsom on the first Saturday in June, Frankie Dettori had racing on the front pages for all the right reasons, blazing to a runaway Derby victory on the favourite, Authorized, the realisation of the Italian's career dream at the 15th attempt.
And, after a gripping head-to-head through the last month of the Flat season, the jockeys' championship went to the very last race. Jamie Spencer neededto win it to draw level with Seb Sanders and did so to force the first tie for 84 years.
Put Fallon on a horse and he does not drop many clangers; his ice-cool performance to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Dylan Thomas, the day beforehis first court appearance, was arguably the ride of the year. But it is by the dedication, competitiveness, grace and dignity of Sanders and Spencer, and the innate style and extrovert enthus-iasm of Dettori, that the year and the sport should be judged.
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