Now Or Never for Fallon as new role keeps flame alive
Published 11/05/2016 | 02:30
Kieren Fallon cut a relaxed figure yesterday morning as he spoke about his fledging partnership with the impressive young Curragh handler Michael O'Callaghan.
At 51 years of age, the inimitable Co Clare native's association with the 27-year-old from Tralee is a fusion of the cool hand of experience and youthful ambition. Plus a mutual aptitude.
Fallon, who won the last of his six British championships 13 years ago, has lived a nomadic existence of late. However, there is a good chemistry about the new firm, and he is at a stage in his life where settling in his homeland has obvious appeal.
Fallon is enjoying the less frantic lifestyle that permits him to play a lot more golf. More importantly, for a born competitor whose tendency to self-destruct could be a thing of the past, he has good horses to ride. This could just be a perfect fit.
The halcyon days with Henry Cecil, Michael Stoute and Aidan O'Brien are gone, but, in emphatic Leopardstown winner Now Or Never, he and O'Callaghan have stumbled upon a serious contender for Sunday week's Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas.
"I don't care what's in the race and I don't want to sound cocky, but I like her," Fallon said of Now Or Never's prospects in the Curragh Classic. "Minding and Ballydoyle and Alice Springs are all solid fillies - they are up there with the best.
"I thought (his 2003 1,000 Guineas winner) Russian Rhythm was exceptional because she beat the colts; none of these would be capable of that, but they are well up to wining a normal Guineas, not an exceptional one, which I thought Russian Rhythm's was.
"Now Or Never is up there with the rest, so I just hope that she gets a clear run to the Guineas."
Even at his most intense during his time at summit of his profession, Fallon could always turn on the charm.
Leant against the boot of a car in O'Callaghan's yard, he exhibits an almost tranquil demeanour, but the fire still burns inside those unnerving eyes.
"I was happy away in California and deep down I didn't think I would take the job," he says of O'Callaghan's offer, which has plucked him from obscurity. "I never knew him before, but I was impressed by the place here.
"He is very sharp with a great eye for a horse. He doesn't spend a whole lot of money, and he has a lot of success.
"Kevin Prendergast was the same - he could buy a cheap horse and do very well with it. Michael is on the up and that is what it is all about.
"He is young, but he has a yard full of horses here and that doesn't happen by chance. Aidan (O'Brien) was young when I joined him and they are similar - very dedicated and very sharp.
"I'll help Michael, but he's helping me too; he has got the ammunition and that's what you need. If you don't get a good horse, you fall by the wayside.
"It doesn't make a difference who you are. It's a knock-on effect; if you aren't winning the big races, you aren't going to get the good rides, and if you don't get the good rides, you won't win.
"That's the way it was for me, but hopefully this filly will just keep it going. Russell Baze (iconic American jockey) is still riding them to sleep in San Francisco - he is nearly 58. I'm not saying I'm going to last that long, but if you don't have to waste, and I don't have to watch my weight, who knows? I feel better now than I did 10 years ago; I look after myself better - less travelling and more golf!"
O'Callaghan, of course, is the instigator in all this, and the impression that he is making is undeniable. In Qatar Racing's Blue De Vega, he also has an Irish 2,000 Guineas prospect.
He says that he was "rattling" with nerves in the winter when he first picked up the phone to ring Fallon, a childhood hero. Having got his man, there is now an even greater sense of stability about his ascent. Few would have predicted that.