Kieren Fallon back in the groove
After riding out so many storms, just getting back on to an even keel has proved commensurate with the most distant of Kieren Fallon's horizons back in the spring.
At the start of the season he was full of bullish talk about the jockeys' championship, various controversial prohibitions having intruded since he won it a sixth time, in 2003.
With hindsight, however, he has come to see those yearnings as impractical. His presence in Chicago on Saturday, at the cost of three winners at Sandown, confirmed a shift of emphasis. From now on, it's going to be more about quality than quantity.
Anyone disposed to construe this new approach as a drop in standards has not been watching Fallon of late. After five winners in just two days at Salisbury, he ended up top rider at the Ebor meeting last week. He stands fourth in the table, with 87 winners. Remember it is still not quite a year since he ended an 18-month suspension for a failed drugs test.
In the event, his Arlington trip proved unprofitable, Summit Surge only fifth in the Million and Pachattack losing the Beverly D at the gate. But it heightened the detachment of his reflections, not only on his own future, but on those still contesting the championship — Paul Hanagan (126 winners), Richard Hughes (116) and Ryan Moore (103).
At 45, Fallon acknowledges that the treadmill awaiting these three until November probably rules out any more titles.
“I think I'm gone beyond running round the country, killing myself,” he said. “I did honestly think I had a shot in March. And there wasn't a whole lot between any of us for a good while. But you need a stable with runners every day, and Luca (Cumani) doesn't run horses every day. You look at the win ratios of those three boys, for their main yards. If Luca had runners every day, I don't think I'd be far behind.”
Fallon is right back on top form since an unconvincing spring.
“I was riding a lot of horses that didn't have a chance, and I'm trying to avoid that now,” he said. “I told my agent, ‘Unless you think they can win, I don't want to ride them'. I don't want to make up the numbers. When the horses aren't good enough, you end up trying too hard, using more energy than you should.
“Ten, 20 years ago you could do that. As you get older, you have to try and pace yourself. It's like Wally Swinburn used to do — pick and choose your rides, keep yourself fresh for the big day. That way you don't burn yourself out.”
The dividends seem transparent. Fallon's riding at York, in his own judgement, was as close to his pomp as he has managed since that diffident comeback, at Lingfield last September.
“I felt better at York than I have all year,” he said. “I was in the right place at the right time. With the help of God, provided I don't get injured or suspended, I'm going to ride 100 winners in my first season back, and you'd have to be happy with that.”
Fallon laments the setbacks that sidelined Afsare, Cumani's exciting Ascot winner, and Gitano Hernando, whose Grade One success at Santa Anita last autumn remains his only one at the elite level since his return.
There was a time, following the collapse of his infamous Old Bailey prosecution, when Fallon pondered a new start in the United States.
“I'd like to spend the winter in America, if I can,” Fallon said. “It depends what Luca sends to Dubai, though that doesn't start until late January. It would have been very difficult, to start over in the States, but there'd be nothing to lose finding a base for the winter.”
At the time, he saw America as potentially a brave new world. Deep down, however, he knew that proving himself all over again in Britain was a braver challenge still.
“And I'm glad that's what I did,” he said. “I'm riding some lovely horses again, for Luca — and enjoying it all a lot more, as well.”