The Blog

A Genius Has Left the Building

At the age of 51,has retired from race riding and closed an umpteenth chapter in his remarkable life.

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."

- Arthur Schopenhauer

At the age of 51, Kieren Fallon has retired from race riding and closed an umpteenth chapter in his remarkable life.

Any film directors out there should take heed; the twisting, unpredictable and volatile plot of the brilliant jockey's career is something that every racing fan will remember forever. It's made for Hollywood.

Love him or loathe him, Fallon has provided moments in the sport, and indeed outside of it, that will be talked of for decades to come.

First, the bad.

The signs were there early. He was banned for six months in September 1994 for trying to pull fellow rider Stuart Webster off his horse at Beverley. You'd be forgiven for blaming such an incident on the petulance of youth, but controversy didn't exit the stage door as Fallon grew older; it followed him like a shadow.

In 1998, Fallon was awarded damages of £70,000 after the Sporting Life had claimed he had cheated when riding Top Cees. It was the first of three conspiracy charges that Fallon would face - and be cleared of.

Next up was the mysterious departure from his role as stable jockey to Sir Henry Cecil in 1999, with rumours ablaze about Fallon's alleged affair with the late trainer's wife. Confirmation of such events never arrived.

At Royal Ascot in 2000, the journey nearly ended. An horrific fall almost forced him into retirement, but he eventually returned six months later.

In 2004, he faced more allegations of corruption, this time from the News of the World. The hearing was dropped with no case to answer.

He was charged with corruption for a third time in July 2006, but was able to ride in Ireland and France despite facing a UK ban until his trial had ended. Regardless, Fallon managed to squeeze in a six months drugs ban in November 2006, handed down by French authorities. Their paths would cross again.

In 2007, he started his third corruption trial - at the Old Bailey - a day after winning the Arc de Triomphe on Dylan Thomas. Only in the life and verse of Kieren Fallon would that sequence seem perfectly normal.

Sensationally, he was cleared of all wrongdoing for a third time on 7th December 2007, again with no case to answer.

But, as the pattern goes, on the 8th December 2007 - the very next day, news broke of a second failed drugs test - again in France - and his subsequent 18-month ban was the straw that broke Ballydoyle's back; Fallon lost his job as retained rider for the most powerful stable in the world.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Fallon has retired from the saddle due to profound depression. It's a sad bookmark in this scarcely-believable tale of woe; but we shouldn't dwell on the bad times.

Although it may be hard for some, understandably, we should try and remember the highlights - and there are plenty.

This was a jockey made of different ilk; this was a genius at work.

He developed a riding technique of his own; almost upright in a driving finish with an unmatched power. Fallon wasn't a brute though - he was a horseman.

With a guile and feel for the thoroughbred like no other, matched by impeccable timing and an iron nerve, he was virtually in a league of his own during those prime years.

There are hundreds of rides to pick out as illustrations of his exceptional ability. I'll focus on two lesser-mentioned efforts.

At the height of his powers in 2003, Fallon arrived at Santa Anita Park in California with a solitary ride. It was to be a winning one.

He always seemed happiest in America and at Epsom. America is where he had gone early in his career, and he often cited that spell as the catalyst for his brilliance in the saddle. He probably felt less pressure there too, away from the prying eyes back home. Epsom was where he excelled, winning seven classics.

On that particular roasting-hot day, Fallon produced a monumental ride to win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Islington. He delivered his filly with perfect timing, and swooped to take victory in the final 100 yards under a power-packed finish.

Tom Durkin - the legendary race-caller, exclaimed Fallon's "rousing ride", and wrapped up his commentary with the nonchalant "Islington wins, no trouble at all!". Both rider and caller kept their calm on the world's biggest stage:

Fallon would return to America in 2004 and repeat the trick on the magnificent Ouija Board, but my focus will shift to 2006 and a race in which Fallon mastered the downfall of the brilliant race mare.

He rode Dylan Thomas in the Irish Champion Stakes, and it's surprising that his genius ride isn't revered more.

As his mount hits the front two furlongs from home, Fallon momentarily pauses his drive and, amazingly, allows the six-time Group 1 winner Ouija Board to take the lead.

He knew the mare all too well, and as she idled in front, the tough-as-teak Dylan Thomas rallied to the cause under a Fallon drive of consummate strength to win by a neck. It was an ice-cool piece of judgement in a red-hot race. It was the stuff of genius.

Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O'Brien remarked after the contest: "He never had to get really serious with Dylan Thomas and he seemed to allow Ouija Board join him and then head him, knowing that he had her covered."

Footage is difficult to locate, but you'll find it as the second race in this montage. Fallon actually rides Islington to third place in the first clip:

May we remember his brilliance on a horse, above all, when we recall the truly incredible story of Kieren Fallon.

Thanks for the memories - there have been a few.