9 July 2006
David Junior won the Coral-Eclipse with a sweeping last-to-first run up the Sandown hill under a supremely confident ride by Jamie Spencer. Ouija Board lost the Eclipse with a shockingly unlucky passage up the inside. Kieren Fallon is in eclipse. We may have to get used to it.
In yesterday’s Group One race, Fallon was supposed to be riding Aussie Rules for Aidan O’Brien, with whom he has struck up the world’s most successful trainer-jockey partnership over the last 12 months. The French 2,000 Guineas winner weakened to finish a close fourth after threatening a furlong out. No blame on substitute jockey Alan Munro but no show by the trainer or the owner, Michael Tabor, so no comments on Fallon either.
It was a bizarre day. Great racing, Hinterland a decisive winner of the big handicap for that most reticent of trainers Michael Jarvis; Land ‘N Stars inching out Sergeant Cecil in the stayers’ race for Jamie Poulton, and the old maestro Henry Cecil saddling a winner to loyal cheers. All that, and another notch in the burgeoning career of Brian Meehan to take David Junior’s winnings to a colossal £2.3 million – and yet we talk of Kieren Fallon.
We have to because the realisation of what has been happening in the 22 months since those first arrests on Sept 4, 2004, has come home to roost. The final twist in the opening act of what looks like becoming an unfolding tragedy was the decision by racing’s new governing authority, the Horseracing Regulatory Authority, to ban Fallon and the two other jockeys charged, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, from riding in Britain until the end of the trial. This will either be the greatest racing scandal of the last 50 years or the most ridiculed police and regulatory failure.
The initial feeling was one of surprise that the HRA should order a ban in contrast to the “innocent until proved guilty” stance with which the Irish authorities allowed Fallon to ride at Leopardstown last night and with which the French will follow suit when he takes the mount on O’Brien’s Ivan Denisovich at Chantilly this afternoon. “To be honest we are all rather shell shocked,” one senior jockey said yesterday. “The boys did not think there was much evidence.” Such vague thoughts will not deter the jockeys’ legal representatives from launching an appeal to the HRA on Wednesday and Fallon’s team appear to be bent on taking their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. At first glance you would have thought they have a compelling case but before you take too short a price on them, you need to carefully re-read, the 12-part judgment handed down by Sir Michael Connell’s panel on Friday.
This is a detailed and uncompromising document quite clearly set out to assert their responsibilities as the regulatory authority of the racing game in this country: witness this passage on Fallon: “It is not our task to decide on guilt or innocence; nor is it our job to second guess the CPS or the DPP. We merely observe that after extensive investigations and after receiving powerful representation on behalf of Kieren Fallon, the CPS crime division has decided to prefer the charge of conspiracy against him.”
Whether we like it or not, the panel’s contention is that in their view people facing these sorts of charges should not be allowed to ride under their jurisdiction. For Lynch and Williams, they have recommended insurance payments as if they were injured. For Fallon, they have invited him to ply his trade elsewhere. Since the case is unlikely to come to trial for at least 12 months and then run for many months more, that means that we will not see him in action until 2008 at the earliest. And if the case goes against him, the world’s grandstand will never again echo the roar as Fallon drives for home.
At his best Fallon was the greatest physical driver of a racehorse that I have ever seen. He developed a unique blend of strength, tactical awareness and equine understanding. It would be a huge loss to the British racing scene if we have seen the last of him. His supporters will fervently wish that events will prove that the past tense is not the right one.