Magazine article The Spectator

Wait and See

Magazine article The Spectator

Wait and See

Article excerpt

I've always doubted that all publicity is good publicity but headlines about his midweek arrest along with 15 other people brought at least one dividend for champion jockey Kieren Fallon on Saturday. 'You guys gave me a good reminder that I hadn't used him for a while,' trainer Mark Johnston told the press after Kieren had won the first on his front-running filly Mystical Girl.

The latest sensational reports of alleged race-fixing hadn't kept the crowds away from Kempton and the champion jockey was warmly applauded for his two victories. Whether he is innocent or bent, he remains something of an anti-Establishment folk hero to the five-pint brigade. But there was even more readiness to cheer Frankie Dettori, whose re-honed ambition is making him a formidable force in this year's jockeys' championship and who drove home a quartet of winners.

Godolphin's signing of Kerrin McEvoy as a Dettori understudy and possible successor, press comment last year that he had lost his edge and a slow start to the season for Fallon's main employer, Sir Michael Stoute, have had Frankie buzzing. He is so high on what he is doing that there must be nights when Mrs Dettori has to scrape him off the ceiling.

As for Kieren Fallon, let us wait and see what evidence is produced. At this stage, we have no charges and no court case. Investigations of racing folk in the recent past have shown the police to possess an ignorance about the racing life which rivals mine about nuclear physics.

Trainer Jamie Osborne, one of the victims of a dawn raid in the past after he had ridden a horse which turned out to have been doped and who never faced any charges as a consequence, reminded me at Kempton how most of us had until then believed an arrest to be something that happened at a comparatively late stage of an investigation. Instead, in Jamie's case and, I suspect, in the latest one, it was something carried out to give the police the right to search his premises and grab his records in case there was anything incriminating to him or anybody else in the police file. An arrest is basically a fishing permit.

Like anybody involved with racing, I have been deluged with inquiries since Fallon's arrest along with trainer Karl Burke and jockeys Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch on the lines of 'Just how crooked is British racing?'. The answer, I suspect, is rather like the one given by a celebrity quizzed about his race and faith. 'I'm not a Jew,' he said. 'I'm just Jew-ish.' Yes, there are occasional instances of corruption and there is manipulation of form. I want the book thrown at any doper or any jockey who 'pulls' a horse in a race he could win. But like human athletes, horses cannot reproduce peak performance every time they race, and sorting out which is likely to be priority day is part of the fun. …

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