By Jon Lees
GB: Twenty years after his father reigned at Royal Ascot, 20-year-old Cieren Fallon is hoping to revive ‘the Fallon factor’ at next week’s five-day meeting.
‘King’ Kieren Fallon, the six-time champion jockey, retired in 2016 having ridden 30 Royal Ascot winners, including the Queen Anne Stakes three times, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Gold Cup.
He was top jockey at the meeting in 2000 with four wins on Kalanisi (Queen Anne), Caribbean Monarch (Royal Hunt Cup), Dalampour (Queen’s Vase) and Celtic Silence (Chesham Stakes).
Hard on the heels of riding his first Group winner on his debut in such company, Cieren Fallon will get his first chance at G1 level on Oxted, the Roger Teal-trained sprinter who gave him the biggest success of his career so far in last week’s G3 Abernant Stakes.
“It means a lot,” says Fallon. “Obviously Mr Teal has a lot of faith in me. We had a really good season last year when we had six winners together, including winning the Portland, and this year we started off with a bang. I hope I can repay him with a good ride and we can see how good Oxted is.”
Oxted has entries in two races at Ascot, the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and is more likely to line up in the 6f event on Saturday week than take on Battaash on the opening day.
Oxted earned that chance after making all the running at Newmarket last week under Fallon, the 2019 champion apprentice, who is attached to William Haggas’s stable.
“It was the biggest highlight of my career and as it was my first Group race, I was a little bit nervous,” says Fallon. “Mr Haggas texted me that morning saying ‘Keep calm’. I went out there and did what Mr Teal said and it paid off.
“Dad just said, ‘Good lad, well done’. That’s him. He’s been there, done it. My mum [former jockey Julie Bowker] was over the moon. She was giving me hugs and kisses.”
Fallon jnr was a late convert to racing, having shown no inclination to follow in his parents’ footsteps until he was 17, when he sat on a horse for the first time. He has now ridden 70 winners and his claim is down to 3lb after landing a first apprentice title last year.
His father rode 2,253 winners but when he was in his pomp, Fallon jnr paid little attention. Now, through old clips of some golden moments in the saddle, he finds those successes integral to learning more of his craft.
“The only time I have seen Dad’s Royal Ascot winners is on Youtube,” he says. “I haven’t seen any of them live. So what I will do is watch those races from previous years with my Dad and talk about the races and how they panned out.
“We do this regularly. We have a look at my rides together, look at their form, look at how the races are to be run. I ride to the instructions to the best of my ability with my Dad’s knowledge in the back of my mind.”
Fallon’s other Royal Ascot rides include Habub for Owen Burrows (Buckingham Palace) and Blue Laureate for Ian Williams (Ascot Stakes) plus Afaak in the Royal Hunt Cup.
“Afaak won the Hunt Cup last year off 103,” he says. “He is rated 106 now and with my 3lb off he will be running off the same mark as last year. That’s a nice ride to pick up. I was very lucky for Charlie Hills last year and he has kept faith in me.”
As has Teal, whose support with Oxted ensured Fallon began the campaign on the path he has set for himself.
“The apprentice title isn’t really my goal as I did it last year,” he says. “This year is about riding at the bigger meetings and in bigger races. When you are on the big stage you learn more. It’s a lot harder but you are riding better horses.”
He adds: “I think Oxted will be more suited to six furlongs. We know he stays the trip well, he has gate speed and he travels really well. Mr Teal knows the horse better than I do – whatever race he chooses I am sure he will run a good race.”