A maiden race at Lingfield earlier this week was the focus of controversy when champion jockey Kieren Fallon failed to ride his mount out for first place.
Fallon was riding the 15-8 second favourite Ballinger Ridge in the betdirect.co.uk Maiden Stakes and had pulled as much as 10 lengths clear of the rest of the field by the halfway mark. In the final straight, the jockey checked over his shoulder and relaxed, but 11-8 favourite Rye, ridden by Chris Catlin, caught him and beat him on the line.
An angry crowd greeted Fallon on his return to the weighing room, some punters furious at lost bets, while others were irate that the champion jockey, known for his flamboyant riding style, had ridden the race in such a casual manner.
Ballinger Ridges trainer, Andrew Balding, was quick to leap to Fallons defence, saying: “Of course it is incredibly disappointing, for the owners in particular, but the horse is a difficult ride and Kieren decided to give him a breather at the furlong post. Probably, in hindsight, that was a mistake, and meant that Kieren got beat at the post.”
A stewards inquiry at Lingfield took two hours to find Fallon guilty of breaching rule 156 (i) for failing to ride out for first place.
The offence, under the “best possible placing” rules carries a maximum penalty of 21 days, and if Fallon were to incur the maximum ban, he could well miss the opening of the Flat turf season at Doncaster on 25 March.
But the matter does not end there. The case has been referred to Jockey Club headquarters at Portman Square on the advice of the Jockey Club security department, because of more serious concerns about “suspicious” betting patterns before the race.
John Maxse of the Jockey Club, confirmed that the race had caused racings regulatory body some concern: “Shortly before the off, Jockey Club security department officials contacted Lingfield’s stewards and reported that there were some suspicious betting patterns on the race, in particular relating to Ballinger Ridge, Kieren Fallons mount.
“In light of what subsequently happened in the race, it would have been remiss of the Jockey Club to conclude the enquiry without checking to see whether there was any correlation between the two matters.”
Andrew Balding was adamant that Fallon napping on the final straight and the suspicious betting patterns were totally unconnected.
“I cannot believe for one second that Kieren would be involved in anything like that. In fact, I would be very surprised if there was anything sinister about the race,” he says.