Thursday 18 January 2018

Fallon future back in focus

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

When news broke last Monday that Kieren Fallon would ride Recital for Aidan O'Brien rather than Native Khan for Ed Dunlop in the Epsom Derby, there was always a chance that the rider's busy legal team would be called to arms.

If a contract existed, Native Khan's owner Ibrahim Araci would have every right to feel aggrieved.

Whether or not one did, though, remained unclear until the court reports alluded to it on Friday.

It was then confirmed when Dunlop tweeted excitedly on Saturday morning: " ... for the record Fallon signed a contract in my office!!!!!!!!"

In the end, Araci looks to have played his hand well. Could the decision to wait until the 11th hour to apply for the injunction to prevent Fallon riding against Native Khan -- as had been set out in the contract -- in the Derby have been have a concious one?

Fallon's legal team had little opportunity to prepare a robust defence. What's more, given that the final ruling wasn't known until mid-morning on Saturday, they had no time to appeal the Court of Appeal decision -- if that is even possible.

Fears expressed in the interim that the court's intervention, in a matter that might normally fall within the remit of the sport's governing body, would set a dangerous precedent are unfounded. The type of contract that Fallon and Araci had is rare.

Implicit within one of its kind are unrealistic restrictions on both the owner/trainer and the jockey -- as this case has demonstrated. Why Fallon ever felt the need to sign this sort of an agreement, which was so narrowly defined, is the biggest mystery of it all. For someone of his standing to do so was naïve in the extreme.

As a result, similar to when he left Michael Stoute in the lurch to join Ballydoyle in 2005, Fallon's reputation has suffered. As Mr Justice Jackson summed up: "He did not improve his position by producing evidence that must be treated as untruthful."

Given the fix that Fallon got himself into in order to team up with O'Brien -- presumably the ride on Oaks runner-up Wonder Of Wonders on Friday was part of a job lot -- maybe the most significant issue now is where does he stand with Ballydoyle? After his indiscretions the last time they were associated, surely tolerance will be at a premium.

The question is, did the powers-that-be at Coolmore book Fallon for the Derby in full knowledge of this binding contract with Araci? If the answer is 'yes,' then we can probably expect to see a lot more of the former champion jockey in their employ. If not, well, Fallon hardly needs any more rope.

No vintage Classic

The British handicapper yesterday confirmed that the 2011 Epsom Derby was no classic Classic. Phil Smith has suggested that Pour Moi will be given a rating of 122, a pound higher than Sir Percy achieved in 2006. That would seem about right, given his previous form, that long shots finished second and fourth, and that Carlton House, which just held on for third, appeared not to fully get home. Maybe Pour Moi will go on to prove himself a worthy champion, but the jury is certainly out.

Viva Barzalona

If the Derby did establish a true champion, it may be 19-year-old Mickael Barzalona, who first burst on to the international scene by collaring Ryan Moore on Aidan O'Brien's Master Of Hounds by a nose in the UAE Derby in March. He was riding Godolphin's Khawlah then, so that he now rides for both of Flat racing's 'superpowers' speaks volumes. At Meydan, despite only scoring by a flared nostril, he also waved his whip triumphantly as he passed the post. Saturday's Usain Bolt-style merriment left many of us aghast, but, then, he did win by a full head this time.


Viewers of the BBC's Epsom coverage on Saturday were left in no doubt that this was going to be the queen's Derby. Allowing for the mass appeal of that in the build-up, for such lop-sided coverage to continue after the event was reprehensible. Clare Balding, in particular, repeatedly drew the focus back to Carlton House's defeat, rather than the first French win in the race for 35 years. She only just stopped short of asking the connections of the first two home to apologise for what they had just done. Had the queen been watching, she, more than anyone, would probably have been appalled.

French woe for O'Brien

Roderic O'Connor struggled home in eighth in yesterday's French Derby at Chantilly. Having got off to such a good start with St Nicholas Abbey on Friday, that concluded a frustrating weekend for Aidan O'Brien, whose runner-up finishes in the Oaks and Derby meant that he has now saddled the second horse home in six of the last seven English Classics, not to mention four of the last five Epsom Derbies. Yesterday's Group One was won by Reliable Man for Alain de Royer-Dupre and Gerald Mosse.


43 -- the percentage of Epsom Derby winners that the sire Montjeu has produced since 2005. Pour Moi was his third, while only Sea The Stars denied him victory with Fame And Glory in 2009.

Irish Independent

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