Cieren Fallon: Young jockey is following in his father Kieren's footsteps

Cieren Fallon
Kieren Fallon's son Cieren is set to be crowned champion apprentice jockey at Ascot
British Champions Day
Venue: Ascot Date: Saturday, 19 October Start: 13:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live.

So much talk in horseracing is about pedigrees, though Kieren Fallon senior smiles when considering what he's passed on to his son Cieren.

Accomplishment in the saddle is certainly one as the 21-year-old prepares to cap his first full season of race riding by receiving the trophy for top apprentice jockey, an accolade handed over on flat racing's Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot.

But in other respects Fallon junior is completely different to his father whose brushes with controversy are remembered nearly as much as his decade-plus of dominance, a period that included success in six jockeys' championships and three Epsom Derbies.

In 1994, he was banned for six months for pulling another jockey from his mount in an end-of-race row at Beverley.

The morning after winning the 2007 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Dylan Thomas, he was in the dock at the Old Bailey on corruption charges at a trial that ultimately collapsed and he also served an 18-month suspension imposed in France after testing positive for cocaine.

Just before his son took part in his first race in 2018, I recall the mock astonishment with which he told me: "He's a fitness fanatic, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink and he never sat on a horse until last year; you see what I mean - but I tell you he can ride."

Rugby league and football were the main sports in which Cieren Fallon participated and excelled as a child growing up in Wigan, the north-west of England town to which his mother Julie Bowker, herself once a successful jockey, re-located the family after splitting with her husband.

Cieren Fallon, who has a twin sister and older sister, is also qualified as a gym instructor, but admits that he didn't see a lot of his father and showed no interest in horses and racing.

He said: "I watched him zero - the only time that I've really watched him is only the big winners on YouTube because growing up it was never a thing for me and I never really realised what he was doing.

Kieren Fallon
Kieren Fallon rode 2,253 winners in his career

"He was more shocked than anyone when I told him that I'd woken up one morning and decided to give racing a go - it was just by seeing a few pictures on the wall in the house that made me think I wanted to try that, it looks good.

"He [his father] made a lot of mistakes - he's there to make sure that I don't make the same mistakes, and I'm pretty sure I'll learn from what's happened and it'll make me a better person and a better rider hopefully."

Fallon junior is now based at the stables of leading Newmarket trainer William Haggas and his wife Maureen, older daughter of Lester Piggott, where he is described as a "natural" who has enjoyed a "simply remarkable" season.

However, as well as things went subsequently, the new champion apprentice recalls a potentially inauspicious start to life in the saddle.

Before enrolling at Newmarket's British Racing School, he had been taken by his father to sit on a pony at a farm owned by fellow jockey Adam Kirby.

"They chucked me on, and it went up [reared] straightaway," he said.

"But I wasn't really in fear, I kind of enjoyed it - it gave me a little buzz - and after that I knew I really wanted to ride horses and ever since then I've never looked back."

Six-time champion jockey Kieren Fallon with his son Cieren
Kieren Fallon (left) retired from racing in 2016, two years before Cieren made his debut

Four successes from rides in just 27 races in 2018 were followed by ambitions to make the following year part of a "learning curve" before a tilt at the apprentice's title in 2020.

But a run of success, including 16 wins in July, convinced Cieren Fallon, Haggas, and the jockey's agent Phil Shea - who guided 2016 champion apprentice Josephine Gordon - that the title race, then headed by Sean Davis, the ultimate runner-up, was already within their grasp. They were correct.

Once the turf season is over, he will swerve the winter all-weather circuit and head off to the sunshine of Florida and a stint with trainer Christophe Clement, but Cieren is already looking forward to future campaigns.

And, whereas sport is littered with promising youngsters whose famous surname ends up proving a hindrance, Cieren Fallon relishes the extra challenges that provides.

He said: "I think it'll only push me because we're very competitive in everything we do - golf, table tennis, badminton - and I'll always want to beat him so he's set good targets for me to aim for.

"They're obviously very big goals, but that would make achieving things he's achieved even better."

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