Strength of character is measured in how one reacts to adversity and in the handling of the slings and arrows that flow from life’s vicissitudes.
Few individuals have been questioned or indeed, continued to be challenged, on that front more than Kieren Fallon who returns to racing tomorrow at Lingfield after an 18-month world-wide ban for failing a drug test in France for a second time.
Greatness and controversy have been the two sides of the coin which has been flipped throughout the Co Clare man’s racing years.
From 1994 when he was suspended for six months for hitting Stuart Webster with his whip after the finish of a race, up until the latest ban imposed in 2007, life has been anything but dull for the six-times champion jockey and winner of all the big races at home and abroad.
And on Sunday, October 7, 2007 he was sorely tested in his dealing with those two Rudyard Kipling twins, triumph and disaster.
That was the day he won the Arc de Triomphe on board Dylan Thomas for the Aidan O’Brien team which he joined in 2005.
A year earlier, he had been banned for what was seen as a rather injudicious ride on Ballinger Ridge at Lingfield and which later formed part of the case against him when questioned and later charged with race-fixing and conspiracy to defraud.
The next day after that Longchamp victory, Fallon appeared at the Old Bailey and was there for the next two months before being deemed to have had no case to answer and consequently not guilty on all charges.
How many others could have produced the performance he did on Dylan Thomas 24 hours before the unwelcome pressure of a court hearing and the possibility of a jail term?
And then in typical Fallon fashion, 24 hours after finally clearing what was a daunting hurdle, he gets hit by that French ban.
Will he ever learn?
The answer in my view is yes. The 44-year-old knows he is in racing’s last chance saloon. He cannot afford to roll the dice of controversy again. Any more slip-ups on what for him is a racing tightrope, will be a noose around his professional neck.
As a jockey, Fallon is up there with the very best. Punters love him, even more so than Frankie Dettori.
The Irishman will never have the charisma of Frankie boy and has no ambitions to be a PR front for himself or even racing in general.
But he knows what it takes to be a winner and the betting public appreciate that.
Fallon has had plenty of time to reflect and will surely realise now that he must stay away from those whose company is best avoided.
He can reinvent himself as the best Flat jockey in the business since the great Lester Piggott who came back from a spell in the clink for tax evasion and within 10 days of his return, at the age of 54, won the Breeders’ Cup Mile on Royal Academy.
Two years later, Lester landed the last of his 30 English Classics on Rodrigo de Triano, in the 1992 2000 Guineas. He rode his last winner in October 1994 and officially retired, this time for good, in 1995.
Fallon’s steely determination will stand him in good stead and there is no reason why he can’t make the headlines for all the right reasons.
I’m backing him to write a final successful chapter and part of that can see Kieren win next year’s 1,000 Guineas on Luca Cumani’s Seta.