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?
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
Extras
indybest
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
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

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style