Donn's Articles » Kieren Fallon return

Kieren Fallon return

Kieren Fallon looked good at York this week. Sitting between John Francome and Jim McGrath, with a Channel 4 microphone in his hand, he seemed relaxed and composed, his comments sometimes humorous, sometimes insightful, always informative, and you got the feeling that, if this whole riding thing doesn’t work out for him, a career in the racing media is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Fallon probably had this week in his diary for a little while: York Ebor meeting, Channel 4. There is little doubt, however, that he has had 4th September in the same diary for a lot longer, etched in indelible ink, the date on which, all things being equal, he will be allowed race ride again. The build up to his return has been quite pronounced. Suddenly, after almost two years in the wilderness, a sabbatical during which he was shrouded in anonymity, Kieren Fallon is visible again. He gave his first interview since December 2007, when the Old Bailey trial into race-fixing collapsed, to Radio 5 Live in March this year, and others followed. Several more interviews in the broadcast and print media, backed up by other appearances, York this week on Channel 4 and a new weekly column in the Racing Post Weekender, and they all said the same thing: Fallon is back.

It makes sense that he should be visible, he needs to be visible. Two years on, Kieren Fallon is still big news, but he needs to get the message out that he is back, that he is still as good as ever. He needs the support of owners and trainers if he is to achieve his goal of wresting back the jockeys’ title from Ryan Moore. Because that is his goal. Ask him where he wants to be this time next year and he will tell you, on top of the jockeys’ table. That is where he always was when he was riding in the UK, and you don’t disbelieve him when he says that there is no reason why he won’t be there. Ask him how good he can be as a flat jockey at 44, and he will tell you to ask Mick Kinane.

It will be a different world that Fallon will enter on 4th September. When he last rode, he rode as first jockey to Aidan O’Brien. He rode horses like Dylan Thomas and Yeats and Peeping Fawn and Holy Roman Emperor as a matter of course. He got up in the morning and he rode out at Ballydoyle, he rode work on some of the best racehorses in training in Europe. When he went to the races, he put on the Ballydoyle uniform and he rode favourites and fancied horses in maidens, handicaps, listed races, group races. Often his main difficulty in a Group 1 race was choosing the right one.

Things will be different this time around, and he knows it. While he is not starting from scratch again, he isn’t exactly getting going from a rolling start either. Racing is bigger than any one man. When you are away, no matter who you are, racing goes on in your absence. Its fluidity ensures that people and roles expand to fill the void left by one man’s absence, no matter how substantial that void is. When you are away for as long as Fallon has been, you can be sure that the gap you left will have been well filled in and covered over, and you start again, you build up again. Fallon will know that, in August 2005, Robert Winston went from champion elect to journeyman jockey in as long as it took him to hit the ground and smash his jaw.

It is interesting that, in a recent interview, Fallon lamented the fact that he hadn’t enjoyed his last year at Ballydoyle as much as he should have, he hadn’t fully appreciated the fact that he was riding all these top class horses because of the “police thing” which was ongoing. That is consigned to history now, and hee has been working hard in Newmarket. He has been working with a personal trainer and he has been riding out for several trainers, Sir Michael Stoute, Ed Dunlop, Jeremy Noseda, Luca Cumani, Gerard Butler, and that is important. Much more than keeping his riding muscles flexed, it is important that Fallon maintains his relationships with trainers, the lifeblood of any rider’s career.

There is always opportunity in adversity, and the gods smiled on Fallon at York this week, or at least the stewards did, when they handed Ryan Moore an eight-day ban for careless riding. Moore’s ban begins the day before Fallon is due to return to the saddle, and that surely means that Fallon will come in for a lot of the Stoute rides that Moore would have had. News also broke yesterday that owner Jaber Abdullah has asked Fallon to ride his horse, Youmzain, in a Group 1 race in Germany on 6th September.

It is the ideal kick start for Fallon. After that, it’s up to him.

© The Sunday Times, 23rd August 2009