GB: Champion apprentice Cieren Fallon Jr is hoping Oxted can provide him with a dream first G1 triumph by landing the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday.
Fallon, 21, is still able to claim 3lb in the majority of races but the status of the showpiece sprint, which forms part of the 35-race Qipco British Champions Series, means he has to compete on level terms.
“It’s going to be a big day,” Fallon said. “He’s been a real good horse to me and obviously Mr Teal and the owners have been very kind to allow me to keep the ride. “I’m overwhelmed with the support they have given me and hopefully I can repay them with a big run.”
Fallon guided Oxted to victory in the William Hill Portland Handicap at Doncaster in September and was also on board him when he won the G3 Betway Abernant Stakes on his return at Newmarket last month.
“Oxted’s done wonders for me already and it would be a dream to win,” added Fallon, speaking to the Qipco British Champion Series media team. “He’s a young sprinter who is still learning and his best days are yet to come.
“It’s a big step up in class but he’s wintered well and is progressive. If it’s not his day on Saturday, then it will be in the future. He’s definitely a Group 1 horse and it’s only a matter of time before he proves it.
“He’s got really good gate speed and the stiff finish shouldn’t be an issue as he’s won over seven furlongs. He handled the undulations well [on the July Course] when running there last summer, he finishes strongly and we’ve got a nice draw. I don’t see any chinks.
“He showed his class in the Portland but there was a real difference in him when I rode him in the Abernant. He’s strengthened up a lot, he’s got bigger shoulders, and he travels a lot better. “He had more natural speed and is getting faster. He ticks all the boxes you need to be a G1 sprinter and Saturday will tell us where he fits in with the others.”
Fallon suggests the absence of any spectators will also be a bonus. “He has his quirks and we have the hood on him in the parade ring,” he explained. “The crowd not being there is a big help to him as he can get a little worked up beforehand.”
Fallon father Kieren, the former multiple champion jockey, never won the July Cup. Fallon Jr. observed: “I’ve already got the bragging rights as I was a champion apprentice, plus I won a Group 3 as an apprentice – that’s another one! This would be something else.
“He’s going to walk the course with me today and Saturday and wants this as much as I do. In my opinion, he’s the best jockey ever and he rode the track brilliantly.”
Trainer Roger Teal reports Oxted to be in peak shape. “Winning the Abernant the way he did justified his entry,” he said. “He’s been working really well and is pretty easy to train. He can get a little excited on racedays but that’s the way with all sprinters – it goes with the territory.”
“We talked about running him at Royal Ascot, but when he ran at Newmarket the last day it was quite quick and he was a little bit stiff afterwards. Our main aim was always the July Cup so we made the decision to keep his powder dry, and let any soreness get out of his muscles.
“We wanted to give him every chance to turn up fighting fit for the Darley July Cup and he’s bounced back really well.”
Teal, seeking a first G1 success, added: “We’ve been threatening for a while but the big boys always seem to have one. It would be brilliant to come home with the pot. We are in it to win so we’ve got a chance. If you are not in it for that reason, you’ve got no chance.”
• Visit the Qipco British Champions Series website