Thursday 4 April 2024

Kieran Fallon

Born on the 22nd February, 1965, Kieran Fallon is a retired Irish flat racing jockey, who clocked up an impressive 2,253 career wins in his time in the saddle. Now in his fifties, Fallon hails from County Clare and boasts five 2,000 Guineas Stakes wins, four 1,000 Guineas Stakes wins, three Epsom Derbies, three Epsom Oaks and a victory in the Arlington Million.

In addition to these impressive wins, Kieran Fallon would also become British Champion Jockey a remarkable six times and the early part of his success could be attributed to his association with leading trainer, Henry Cecil. Whilst in the Cecil’s stable, Fallon would enjoy a successful time, but the pairing would come to an abrupt end in 1999, when he was dismissed for undisclosed reasons. The jockey is known to be a fiery character, which could have easily led to a disagreement or two and a subsequent parting of ways.

Rocky Period

After the turn of the century, things became a little ‘chequered’, with a mixture of winners, injury and controversy. Now in the Michael Stoute stable, he won the 2,000 Guineas shortly before sustaining an serious arm injury at Ascot which would ultimately lead to Fallon losing the jockey’s championship that year.

Controversy then struck in 2004 when Kieran Fallon was accused of race fixing in a 2 year long trial, but was subsequently exonerated for lack of evidence. After having been banned from racing in the UK for the period of the inquest, Fallon returned to racing immediately after being acquitted.

Continued Controversy

It seemed that trouble was never far away for Fallon, as the jockey was banned from racing again for six months for failing a drugs test in 2006, then failing another in 2007. In total, he missed almost two years of racing through suspension before returning to the saddle in 2009 as a freelance rider.

With his most successful years behind him, Fallon retired from racing in 2016, citing depression as the primary reason. Four or five years of relative underachievement by his own high standards saw the jockey lose his appetite for the challenge.

During his career, Kieran Fallon was always a colourful character and it was ironically the characteristics that made his successful that ultimately led to his fall from grace. However, race fans will always have a soft spot for the mercurial talents of the jockey.

Friday 15 March 2024

Vertem Futurity Trophy

Inaugurated, as the Timeform Gold Cup, in 1961, the Vertem Futurity Trophy has been known as the Observer Gold Cup, Futurity Stakes and the Racing Post Trophy at various points in its history. However, following the introduction of the European Pattern in 1971, the race was awarded Group 1 status and has maintained that status ever since.

Run over a mile on Town Moor, Doncaster, the Vertem Futurity Trophy is open to two-year-old colts and fillies and its scheduling, in late October, makes it the final Group 1 event in the British Flat racing calendar. In 2019, with Doncaster abandoned due to waterlogging, the Vertem Futurity Trophy was run at Newcastle, thereby becoming the first Group 1 race in Britain to be run on a synthetic surface.

Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery remain the leading jockeys in the history of the Vertem Futurity Trophy with five wins apiece, while Sir Henry Cecil remains far and away the leading trainer with ten wins between 1969 and 1993. The race is considered a trial for the Derby the following season and five winners, namely Reference Point (1986), High Chaparral (2001), Motivator (2004), Authorized (2006) and Camelot (2011) have gone on to win the Epsom Classic. Aside from the subsequent Derby winners, other notable winners of the Vertem Futurity Trophy include Saxon Warrior (2017), Magna Grecia (2018) and Kameko (2019), who all won the 2,000 Guineas the following season.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Ebor Handicap

Taking its name from 'Eboracum', the Roman name for York, the Ebor Handicap is worth £1 million in prize money, of which £600,000 goes to the winner, making it the most valuable race of its kind in Britain. Inaugurated, as the Great Ebor Handicap, in 1843, the race is run over one mile and six furlongs at York Racecourse, where it forms the centrepiece of the four-day Ebor Festival, staged annually in late August. Since 2019, when prize money was increased to its current level, the Ebor Handicap has been open to horses aged four years and upwards.

Flint Jack, who recorded back-to-back victories in the Ebor Handicap in 1922 and 1923, remains the only horse to win the race more than once. The legendary Lester Piggott remains the leading jockey in the history of the Ebor Handicap, with five winners between 1958 and 1983. His quintet included Gladness, who also won the Gold Cup at Ascot and the Goodwood Cup in 1958, and Jupiter Island, who subsequently became the first British-trained winner of the Japan Cup, in 1983. Other notable winners of the Ebor Handicap include Sea Pigeon (1979), who went on the win the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival twice, in 1980 and 1981, and Sergeant (2005), who completed a notable treble by winning the Northumberland Plate, Ebor Handicap and Cesarewitch Handicap in the same season.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Triumph Hurdle

The Triumph Hurdle is Grade 1 juvenile novices' hurdle run over 2 miles and 179 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in March. Restricted, exclusively, to horses aged four years – who, of course, start the season aged three years – the race is currently scheduled as the opening contest on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Triumph Hurdle was inaugurated, at the now-defunct Hurst Park, in West Molesey, Surrey, in 1939 and, following the Second World War, was run, uninterrupted, until 1962. Hurst Park closed permanently that year and, in 1965, the Triumph Hurdle was resurrected at Cheltenham, becoming part of the Festival programme in 1968. The race was initially sponsored by the Daily Express, followed, briefly, by the Elite Racing Club and, since 2002, by JCB.

Four winners of what is, effectively, the seasonal championship for juvenile hurdlers in Britain – namely Clair Soleil (1953), Persian War (1967), Kribensis (1990) and Katchit (2007) – have gone on to win the Champion Hurdle later in their careers. Interestingly, the jockey of the 1954 winner, Prince Charlemagne, was none other than 18-year-old Lester Piggott, who would win his first Derby on Never Say Die later the same year.

Veteran Seven Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson has saddled seven winners of the Triumph Hurdle – First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999), Zaynar (2009), Soldatino (2010), Peace And Co (2015) and Pentland Hills (2019) – making him the most successful handler in the history of the race. Anyone looking ahead to the 2023 renewal, scheduled for 1:30pm on Friday, March 18, might also like to bear in mind that seven of the last ten winners were trained in Ireland; at this still early stage, the once-raced French filly Lossiemouth heads the ante-post betting market.

Thursday 4 January 2024

One For Arthur

Owned by Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson, a.k.a. 'Two Golf Widows', and trained by Lucinda Russell near Kinross, in eastern Scotland, One For Arthur is best known as the winner of the 2015 Grand National. Indeed, he had the distinction of being just the second horse trained north of Hadrian's Wall – the other being Rubstic, trained by John Leadbetter in Denholm, near Hawick, in 1979 – to win the premier steeplechase.

One For Arthur had demonstrated his Grand National credentials when staying on well to finish fifth, beaten just 3 lengths, in the valuable Becher Chase, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, on his first attempt over National fences the previous December. He subsequently won the Classic Chase, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Warwick in January in taking style and headed to Aintree at the top of his game.

Despite being 11lb higher in the weights than at Warwick, One For Arthur was sent off 14/1 fourth favourite for the National, behind Blaklion, Definitly Red and Vieux Lion Rouge. Under a confident ride from jockey Derek Fox, who was making his debut in the race, he was held up in rear, as he had been at Warwick, but made steady headway throughout the second circuit.

Favourite Blaklion took a clear lead as the field crossed the Melling Road for the final time, but One For Arthur, who had travelled and jumped well throughout, moved upsides at the second-last fence and soon quickened into the lead. On run-in, recent Cheltenham Festival winner Cause Of Causes appeared as his main challenger, but he was not to be denied and stayed on strongly to win by 4½ lengths.