What do you think of when you hear the name Kieren Fallon? If you’re not picturing a beaming jockey, relaxed in himself and happy to discuss his career openly and without hesitation, then prepare for a shock when you read Julian Muscat’s fantastic interview with the six-time champion.
Fallon has been part of British racing’s landscape for more than 25 years. During that time he has hit the highest peaks and plumbed the lowest depths, with big-race success often followed by suspension or scandal. The phrase ‘rollercoaster career’ could have been coined for the man from County Clare.
Rarely can there have been a more effective jockey; punters knew it, and so did trainers
In terms of pure talent, Fallon is undoubtedly one of the greatest riders there has ever been. While never as stylish as Piggott, Cauthen or Dettori, he has often appeared to ‘lift’ horses over the line to victory, possessing an ability to extract that bit extra when it’s really needed. Rarely can there have been a more effective jockey. Punters knew it. And so did trainers.
Henry Cecil, Michael Stoute and Aidan O’Brien – whose combined judgement must be regarded as gospel – all plumped for Fallon as their number one and were duly rewarded on the racecourse.
Yet while riding winners, particularly on the big stage, seemed to come easily to the Irishman, so, unfortunately, did his knack for finding trouble away from the track. Why was that?
The man himself provides a clue. “The regret is that I never had someone, one person, to help me along that journey,” he says. “You have to have someone with you who genuinely wants to help you and those people are very hard to find in racing.
“I grew up basically living off the land and enjoyed it; it was such a happy way to live. It is a massive change to go from that kind of background to winning big races all over Europe.
“You can handle the ruthlessness, the pressure, the rat-race mentality. It’s what happens in the background you need guidance with.”
The latest development in the Kieren Fallon story has seen him sign up to ride for Godolphin trainer Saeed Bin Suroor. Such an official partnership would have been inconceivable while Frankie Dettori was ruling the roost, however racing’s game of snakes and ladders is rarely dull and always has the capacity to throw up fascinating scenarios.
Prince Bishop provided the alliance with Group 1 glory in Dubai and, while the Godolphin team has plenty of riding talent at its disposal, it would come as no surprise if Fallon were to climb up the pecking order with the boys in blue. The 49-year-old is certainly relishing the season ahead.
“I feel better than any time in the last 20 years,” says Fallon. “For the first time in a long time I am in a really good place. I wake up every morning looking forward to the day.”
Fallon may or may not have a ride for Godolphin, or anyone else for that matter, in the Guineas races but one star certain to turn up at Newmarket is Kingman.
Trainer John Gosden has been understandably keen to downplay the expectations surrounding the beautifully-bred son of Invincible Spirit, who races for Frankel’s owner Khalid Abdullah, yet even he admitted after a thrilling win in the Greenham that the colt is a bit special.
Whether he is special enough to merit odds of 5-4 for the 2,000 Guineas remains to be seen; Lord Grimthorpe, Khalid Abdullah’s Racing Manager, told this magazine last month that 4-1 wasn’t much of a price. Thanks, Teddy! With Coolmore’s massively-hyped Australia in opposition – could he possibly be the best horse Aidan O’Brien has ever trained? – the race promises to be a classic in every sense of the word.
One man who cannot wait for this year’s race is our renowned writer, Tony Morris. This year will be the 50th renewal that Tony has witnessed and in this month’s column he takes a look book over the previous 49, picking out some of his most memorable winners.