Kieren Fallon: “These are the days when you wish you were riding again”
Six time British Champion Jockey Kieren Fallon talks us through Day One at Epsom and the controversy over Diore Lia’s Derby entry
Racing does not get any better than the Derby meeting and the two days at Epsom were among my absolute favourites when I was riding.
Epsom’s a brilliant place and Derby day always made me feel like a kid at Christmas, with Oaks day being a little like Christmas Eve. Everything building up to the two-days is exciting. The anticipation starts to build from the moment you do that last piece of work, with the anxiety and adrenaline really flowing by the time you go into the stalls. Then the gates fly open and you have to get in the zone.
You get a special buzz being around Epsom on these two days. When you arrive at the course everyone’s excited – the trainers, the owners, the jockeys and the crowd – and it’s a great atmosphere. On top of that you’ve got the gypsies on the way into the track trying to nick a bit of your money for some lucky heather – and you always have to buy it because if you don’t then you think it’s bad luck! This meeting and Royal Ascot are the days when you wish you could be riding again as they are so special.
And that’s why Diore Lia running in the Derby has made me so upset. It’s making a mockery of one of the best – if not the best – races in the country and I can’t believe it’s been allowed to happen. I think it’s an absolute disgrace the BHA haven’t done more to sort it out. I don’t agree with what the owner’s done but there’s a loophole and he’s exploited it. So it’s not his fault, the trainer’s fault or even the jockeys fault for taking their chance. It’s the BHA’s fault for having this gaping loophole that means any horse can run in the Derby even if they’re a donkey. It beggar’s belief.
She won’t be involved in any part of the race and I see she’s 1,000-1 to win. They should make her 1,000,000-1 because she’ll never win the race and it would show everyone how ridiculous this all is. I think what makes it worse is all the press they’ve had out of it. That’s taken the gloss off the race, because it’s Derby week and I’ve barely seen anything that’s not about this horse. It’s a joke. An absolute joke.
Fortunately, there are some proper horses running at Epsom over the two days and I think our horse Prize Money can surprise a few people in the Coronation Cup (3.10) on Friday. He’s done nothing but improve this year. He’s beaten Postponed in Dubai and ran a great race on Dubai World Cup night. That has to make him a player in this race. I know they like Highland Reel and he’s one tough horse; tough as nails in fact. But you can’t fault our horse because he’s just kept on improving.
In the Oaks (4.30), I can’t look beyond Rhododendron. The form is there. She should have beaten Winter in the 1,000 Guineas and that horse has since gone on to trounce them in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Rhododendron’s rider Ryan Moore, in an interview after the Guineas, said he wished he could ride the race again, which tells you he felt he probably should have won that day. I simply can’t see beyond her. There’s some international intrigue in the race, with the American horse Daddys Lil Darling and while I wish them well, I can’t see her doing anything. Her trainer Kenny McPeek is very good at his job, but the horse has so much to overcome. She’s never run down a hill before and anyway, by the time she gets to the top of the hill she’ll be gasping. She won’t have encountered anything like this in her life and it’ll be a shock to the system.