The top prizes don’t just belong to the old heads and the big battalions. Oxted’s decisive July Cup victory was a first Group One victory for both trainer Roger Teal and legendary jockey Kieran Fallon’s 21 year old son Cieran, and it will certainly not be their last.
Oxted is a massive home bred son of Mayson who won this same race back in 2012. He ended last season with an impressive win at Doncaster and opened this with an equally powerful victory on Newmarket’s other course. He strode the paddock beforehand the burly image of the classic sprinter. “He’s double the price he should be,” said Roger Teal genially, “because he’s trained by me.” Two years ago he nearly won the 2,000 Guineas with the big outsider Tip Too Win. 12-1 yesterday was disrespect.
In an earlier life the now rugby forward shaped figure of Teal was a lean and talented amateur rider, and last season, his 13th with a training licence was his best with just 19 winners. But his move during the winter to Lambourn’s Windsor House whose earlier occupants include champions Peter Walwyn and Nicky Henderson, has upped his game to the tune of already 10 winners in this truncated season with a best ever percentage victory strike.
Teal’s is a charmingly earthy and family run operation with both his wife and son Harry warming up the empty racecourse with their cheers. While Oxted is the winner’s official name, at home he is called Fenton after the black Labrador whose owner was famously pictured hopelessly yelling at him in Richmond Park. It was ‘Fenton’ that Harry was screaming as the line flashed forwards and any name would do.
But, importantly there were no excuses and no fluke about Oxted’s one and quarter length defeat of Frankie Dettori’s Irish mount, Sceptical, with the favourite Golden Horde a neck away in third. Golden Horde lost little in defeat breaking fastest of all along the inside rail and possibly slightly disadvantaged by the challengers led first by Hello Youmzain coming away from him in the centre. But once Fallon got Oxted into full roll there was only going to be one result.
Cieran Fallon had ridden Oxted at both Doncaster and Newmarket and repaid the faith in a style that would have befitted his famous father with whom he walked the course beforehand. “I was just a passenger on a very good horse today,” he said later, “there was a lot of pressure going into a Group One like this. Dad said keep it simple. That’s what I did today. What a horse.”
This is just the third season that young Cieran has been with us on the track and it really does look as if the magic might have come down a generation. “He’s got it, I know he’s got it,” said ‘Old Kieran’ afterwards. “He’s got so much confidence – I wish I had half his confidence when I was riding. William (Haggas, young Fallon’s principal employer) has done so much with him behind the scenes, sent him to Australia and America. Cieran works hard and he’s dedicate, but without William he wouldn’t be having this success. He’s done a great job with him.”
So ends the another Festival without Festivities and one where the lack of atmosphere was as keenly missed as at Epsom on Derby Day. Newmarket’s July course without the crowds, the calypso, the Pimms, the ice creams and the fun. We didn’t even have the expected first race victory of the best named horse in training, Yuri Gagarin by Sea The Moon out of Soviet Terms. Still we got the likes of Oxted to lift the gloom and Roger Teal and Cieran Fallon to show that glory can still belong to those who seek it.