Lessons dictate that Fallon's talents face a tough test in transition from rider to trainer

Gifted jockeys rarely reach the top when they hang up their saddles and start running a stable. Chris McGrath reports

There are trawler men in the Hebrides that cannot swim, more or less as an article of faith. Their intimacy with the sea has taught them not pragmatism, but fatalism. It is the same when men deal with another elemental force of nature: the thoroughbred. Jockeys may think that they are imposing their will on their mounts, but trainers learn how very narrow are the perimeters of their control. And they have to do so the hard way, which is why the transition between one career and the other is seldom an easy one.

It is proving hard to predict Kieren Fallon's future from one day to the next, never mind 10 years hence, but the six-times champion jockey seems earnest in his ambition to train one day. As and when he does, the strengths and weaknesses of this complex character will no doubt be magnified by the intensity of his new vocation. His uncanny gift with horses entitles him to be a success; but a less happy knack with people, or people in authority at any rate, has equal potential to hinder his fulfilment.

As it happens, he has a greater awareness of his limitations than is often suggested. He knows that he will need a steady hand on the tiller, when it comes to running his own business. His priority will be to concentrate on the horses in their work. Throughout his career, on the gallops, he has shown a flair for the mental development of the horses trained by his employers. But the fact remains that he will have to distinguish himself from many other top riders who have failed to achieve commensurate status as trainers.

It is no more certain that a farmer will be a good chef than that a great jockey will make a great trainer. In fact, experience might suggest quite the reverse.

The outstanding exception remains Fred Winter, who scaled twin peaks as the only man to ride and train the winners of the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and, twice, the Grand National. As a jockey, between 1947 and 1964, Winter was champion four times; as a trainer, he was champion eight times between 1971 and 1985.

But other names carved into the jockeys' pantheon have crumbled into obscurity as trainers. Some of the best trainers, moreover, have had fairly mediocre careers in the saddle. Paul Nicholls, Winter's modern successor as the dominant jumps trainer, is a case in point. But the most valuable lesson Nicholls ever learned was in defeat. He kept riding horses that were exhausted by their pursuit of front-runners trained by Martin Pipe. He realised that Pipe had taken fitness in racehorses to a new level, and set about doing so himself.

Another Nicholls, David, can perhaps be counted the most successful ex-Flat jockey among current trainers, and he certainly rode at a far more humble level than, say, Walter Swinburn or Pat Eddery. The latter pair, while still in the early stages of their training careers, have a long way to go if they are to retrieve the elite stature they achieved as riders. Lester Piggott himself made only a tentative start as a trainer, before exploring extremes – jail, and a riding comeback at 54 – surpassing even Fallon's unpredictable tale.

There may be an instructive parallel in the fact that many of the best football coaches also emerged from relative obscurity. Jose Mourinho was once an anonymous lieutenant to Bobby Robson at Barcelona. Robson in turn may have been an accomplished footballer, but he never approached the heights he achieved as a manager. In contrast, the litany of gullible icons to have been humiliated in management grows longer every decade.

It would be wrong to be dogmatic. After all, Fabio Capello himself was a top-class player. But so far as racing is concerned, perhaps you will only ever get the best out of horses when you have discovered how bad they can be. If you ride relatively able animals all the time, trying to patch together slow, brittle ones every morning will come as a nasty shock.

Brendan Powell was known as a jump jockey who would go just about anywhere to ride just about anything. Unsurprisingly, he is making rapid progress in the early stages of his own training career. "A lot of people would tell you that you were riding a horse with an attitude problem," he recalled yesterday. "But in my experience as a rider, there was nearly always a reason for what seemed an attitude problem – an injury, perhaps, something holding them back. Now that I'm training, it's my job to try to find out what it might be."

Powell remembers someone asking one of Martin Pipe's riders how the trainer managed to get so much improvement out of his recruits from other stables. "And the answer was that every horse that came into the yard, no matter what it was, would be treated as the next Gold Cup winner," he said. "We get a lot of moderate beasts here, and there's nothing more satisfying than placing them right, so that they can win a race of some sort."

Just as big-name footballers are often fast-tracked to big clubs when they turn to management, so Fallon can be expected to benefit from elite patronage once he starts to train. Training is a ruthlessly competitive walk of life, rewarding relentless demands with regular disappointments. But at least Fallon, unlike some top riders, has seldom been allowed security in his mastery. You can only find complacency among those who taste success. But the lessons of hardship can be learned by anyone.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum