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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fact and Fiction

- I have a new post up at Breederscup.com in which I babble on about some of the stakes from over the weekend, and the ESPN coverage of them. Not all of the races of course, since there was far too much on one weekend to digest, and you know how I feel about that, so I won't get started.

Since submitting the post, I see that Frankel announced that Country Star will not run in the Juvie Fillies. “We want to have a nice filly next year...I hope she’s a superstar. Dirt or turf, I don’t think it makes a difference.” [Thoroughbred Times] Well, that's cool, though I am a bit disappointed, since I'm always attracted to strong finishers like that. In any event, I will surely have a bet against Indian Blessing should she really be the favorite....and probably if she's not too. I don't do 27.22 final quarters.

Walter emailed to correctly admonish me for not discussing the Arc. I did mention it over at the BC site, but it was certainly an event with many layers, including the long inquiry, the disappointing performance of favored Authorized, and the now-commenced race-fixing trial of winning rider Kieren Fallon. Chris McGrath, whose reporting on European races in the Independent - and apparently, for the Belfast Telegraph too - I always enjoy, wrote in his inimitable style of the jockey's ride in the Arc.

His success on Dylan Thomas in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe – one of epic drama – transcends the familiar, trivial dimensions of his sport. It disclosed something of the very fabric of endeavour. It was not wrought merely from mental fortitude, which is after all more a matter of defiance than dynamism. Rather it was fashioned in a zone known to few, in any walk of life, where detachment and engagement are kept in precarious, critical tension. As nearly as you might dare use the word, in such an environment, it was the stuff of genius. [Belfast Telegraph]
Honestly, I don't really know what the fuck he's talking about, but man, I wish I could write like that. Here's another article from over there, this about the inquiry itself. According to reporter J.A. McGrath (relation unknown), it was the "draconian" French racing rules that was behind the probe, which, according to the writer, focused more on Soldier of Fortune, who was a "spent force" at the time, and only indirectly affected by the winner, who bore in on Zambesi Sun, thus causing a chain reaction.
In Britain, jockey Kieren Fallon might well have been suspended for Dylan Thomas's slightly wayward passage in the closing stages, but his mount would not have been in any danger of losing the race, certainly not one as big as the Arc. The simple matter was that he had not improved his placing.

But in France, it has always been a very different story and one cannot help feeling (though there is absolutely no justification for it) that if the second, or indeed Soldier Of Fortune, had been a local horse, there may have been a different outcome. [Telegraph]
That last accusation sounds more like something we'd hear in figure skating rather than horse racing.

Meanwhile, Fallon's trial is underway and, according to C. McGrath, horse racing has seldom embarked upon the sort of drama that began in the Old Bailey yesterday.
Whatever the outcome, this will be an excruciating ordeal for the sport. Racing can afford to be indulgent about the picaresque flavours in its reputation, so long as they are confined to Dick Francis or 19th-century memoirs. In this instance, however, the process of establishing unpalatable fact or grotesque fiction cannot fail to be a grievous one. [Independent]
In fact, the trial is virtually out of the Dick Francis novel Under Orders. Fallon is accused of intentionally losing on horses that his alleged co-conspirators bet to lose on the betting exchange Betfair....precisely the plot line of Francis' book, which I summarized in this post.

During the first day of the trial, prosecutors singled out a specific race in which they alleged that Fallon threw away [a] huge race lead
Mr Fallon told officials after the race that he was worried the horse may become tired, but Jonathan Caplan QC, prosecuting, said today that his co-defendant Miles Rodgers had bet £74,000 that Ballinger Ridge would not win.

A prosecution expert claimed the ride was “not a marginal case of a jockey dropping his hands”, but a suspicious and significant act.
.......
The Jockey Club had tipped off officials at Lingfield Racecourse before the race that a large amount of money had been placed on the horse to lose.
Fallon had told stewards, who conducted an inquiry into the unusual circumstances of the defeat, that he was giving the horse "a breather." Whether his explanation is fact or fiction to the court remains to be seen.

8 Comments:

Dave said...

It's certainly going to be fascinating trial. I found this well balanced piece about the betting case and think it makes interesting reading.

My own opinion is that Fallon had risen so high in his trade that he thought he was untouchable. He certainly has his demons like plenty of sports professionals seem to have.

Anonymous said...

Dittos, Chris McGrath is a wonderful racing journalist in the distinctive, highly literate Anglo-Irish tradition. This chap really knows how to craft a highly evocative paragraph! Here in the Colonies, Joe Palmer of the old NY Herald-Tribune, the "writer's paper" as it was known, as opposed to the "old grey lady" NY Times, practiced a very distinctive American style of racing journalism; his collection "This Was Racing" edited by Red Smith as I recall, is well worth a read!
/S/Green Mtn Punter

Superfecta said...

I thought there were some good points raised in the Telegraph article, but I find it difficult to take them as seriously as I might in a less jingoistic publication.

Loved the McGrath article.

John said...

"it transcends the familiar, trivial dimensions of his sport, blah blah blah . . "

Geez Alan, sometimes you are so bourgeois. Nobody would read your fucking blog if you wrote like that!

Smash said...

Is there video available of Fallon's questionable ride? I tried YouTube, but couldn't find anything.

Jen Morrison said...

Hi Alan

Always enjoy your site..
I am very interested in the Kieren Fallon trial having met him several times. He's a very quiet guy and he's also a very different kind of guy.

Please don't ever start writing like that Chris Mcgrath guy - nowaways nobody has time to read long,long diatribes that don'tmake any sense.
i have a headache just trying to decipher what he was trying to say.

alan said...

Smash - I tried that too. I'm wondering if there's some UK equivalent of Cal Racing or Race Replays.com?

alan said...

There's a still picture of Fallon looking behind him in the Lingfield race here.