Racing’s Extraordinary Weekend

Horse racing has always been an emotional rollercoaster, dear reader, and rarely more so than this past weekend, when both ends of the sport of kings' continuum have been so poignantly squeezed.

Triumph and tragedy are commonplace bedfellows in our sport and, whilst their relationship is akin to that couple we all know who can't live with each other but can't live without each other, their respective stories this weekend were - for once - separate and distinct.

The deaths of Jamie Kyne and Jan Wilson, being treated as murder, provided the starkest possible counterpoint to the brilliance of Sea The Stars' imperiously sauntering victory in the Irish Champion Stakes in a polarising fifteen hours for the sport. Within that half a day, racing saluted a true champion of the now, and lost an almost certain champion of the future.

At around 2am on Saturday morning, as Kyne and Wilson slept, a most unnatural of disasters was about to unfurl. Full details are not yet known, but the current perception is that their flat was torched and the event is being treated as arson.

Kyne rode his first winner aboard Birkside on 6th December 2007, aged just 16. Last year, he added another eight victories, and was already on the 29 winner mark this season. His talent in the saddle was recognised by most in the North, and many in the South, including Jamie Spencer, who noted, "I tipped him up long ago to be a future star. As apprentices go, he was in a different league; you only had to watch him ride to know he had something special."

Spencer is rarely given to soundbites of any description, let alone such effusive rhetoric, so this truly was high praise from someone who knows a good jockey when he sees one.

Jan Wilson, a year older than Kyne, but herself not yet 20, was a lesser known pilot, but no less of a loss of life. She'd only had a handful of rides and, as apprentice to David Barron, had enjoyed a hat-trick of wins aboard Imperial Sword, a horse owned by her parents.

Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, the sport did its best to compose itself as the details of the full horrific episode emerged. Kyne was a Galway boy, and many of those in the crowd at Leopardstown would have been reeling from the news.

Racing's show is an unstoppable juggernaut, however, and it could do nothing but go on. Saturday saw what has become the centrepiece of the Irish flat racing calendar, the Champion Stakes, act out its own - more traditional - drama.

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After a week when the likelihood of Sea The Stars' participation seemed to hang precariously in the balance (the overture to the actual race was played on Betfair all week, as John Oxx's beastie almost drifted to double digits), a contrivance of meteorological contrition and connections' collective competitive nature ensured that Fame And Glory would have a rematch against his Epsom Derby conqueror. And we spectators would have a race to savour.

As predicted here on 8th June, Sea The Stars swerved the Irish Derby in favour of a 10f race (the Eclipse at Sandown). This is his best trip and probably shy of Fame And Glory's optimum (2nd in the Epsom Derby was bettered by victory in the Irish version).

Here, he also took on Mastercraftsman, whom he'd previously vanquished at York. Michael Tabor, a pretty sporting chap, had submitted that day on the Knavesmire that Ballydoyle's best chance of gunning down The Stars was with F&G. Judging by the winning margin, he was incorrect in that assessment (though he normally is not).

The form of this race (and indeed pretty much each of the quintet of Group 1's Sea The Stars has won this season) is bombproof. 2 1/2 lengths back to the Irish Derby winner / Epsom Derby second, and a further 2 1/2 lengths back to the Irish Guineas / St James Palace Stakes winner.

If there is one teeny weeny bone to pick with Sea The Stars, it might be that he's yet to face a true 1m 2f specialist this year, with the Mastercraftsman probably optimally effective over 1m and F&G a twelve furlong horse. That said, STS won over both of those trips as well (and both in Classics to boot), so as picked bones go, it's kind of a hairline fracture of the stapes (smallest bone in the body, apparently), if such a thing is possible.

I would love to see STS finish with wins in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe / Breeders Cup Classic, but surely that is too much to ask, even of a true champion such as him. Victories at Longchamp and Santa Anita would give STS a very real claim to be the best racehorse ever. It is for certain that we'll wait many a long year before we see his ilk again.

It says a lot about racing's whirligig that the massive news story of Friday, the return to the saddle of Kieren Fallon, had become only the third biggest consumer of column inches by Sunday. And this in spite of his first winner since his comeback, Our Kes at Wolverhampton.

Fallon is still a week or so short of full match fitness, and I'd be wary of going 'all in' with him at the moment, but soon enough he'll be bludgeoning the winners home again, and the scurge of many a layer.

On a truly extraordinary weekend for racing, for numerous reasons and from various points on the spectrum, it's time to pause and reflect.



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10 replies
  1. Paul says:

    Fallon…. will he ever be the same man again? I know we want it, and many of us have a Fallon tale to tell, but I have my doubts. He’ll probably win more G1’s, but perhaps more because of the horses than because of the man himself.

    His peak years have gone, he’s been battered into the ground by the press and in many ways by the people who previously adored him. Now, perhaps, the strain of his many misdemeanours is going to start to tell on his old bones.

    Henry Cecil, not a man I particularly like, but one who has almost certainly conducted himself much more pleasantly in public than Fallon throughout their “lively” time together in the racing circuit, might possibly raise a wry smile at the thought.

    Fallon was a great jockey, but a mess in life.

    Chris Catlin has always been as strong as Fallon. He just didn’t get the same rides.

    But Ryan Moore. Strong, stylish and a pace perfectionist.

    The latter has the potential to be the greatest flat jockey ever.

    Let’s hope he doesn’t go down the same path as Fallon and turn himself into the Kerry Katona of horse racing. Heroes are born by effort, strength and reward. Not by “car crash” entertainment, which is how Fallon has lived his life. Even before the Stuart Webster affair, or when he pulled Cecil’s missus, he was always in trouble, so the cocaine episodes, or even the “bung” moments that have always hung around him throughout his career, never really came as a surprise to anyone.

    Great jockey. Without doubt.

    The greatest? Under the circumstances, no.

    I’d like to see him back to his best, but whether it will happen now – at his age – is doubtful.

  2. simon holden says:

    Great title Matt it certainly has been an extraordinary weekend, the horror of Saturday (12 miles down the road from me ) is just dawning on everyone.You think to yourself that hopefully it was quick.
    Sea the Stars is one superstar but would it have won last years arc , Im not so sure.It would have been great to see it canter round Donny this Saturday barely breaking sweat to win a triple crown though.As for Kieran he is a mystery wrapped in an enigma as they say and is not all bad .He has been very kind and generous to a friend of mine when he needn’t have been and is not all bad but is only a matter of time before he messes up again. I think he thinks he is invisible sometimes, I think only Jimmy Fortune can match him for strength and awareness and when he gets matchfit we will see the old Fallon powering them home, I will give it six months before he ***** up, actually hope I am wrong

  3. Mike Brennan says:

    Hi Matt. Your blog above, is the best yet. It captures all our thoughts and feelings regarding the youngters, STS, and Fallon. Not much else to add except crassley, i also had CHEVETON on Saturday @ 18/1 (Betfair) with £16 win & Place. It went some way to distract from the terrible events up North. I hope whoever is responsible, get what they deserve, and more.

  4. Eric says:

    Nice sentiment and words Matt. Thank you for expressing thoughts that many of us must be feeling. That’s life, without the lows we wouldn’t have the highs.

  5. John C. O'Brien says:

    Matt, you’re best ever colum.
    As Eric says above, thank you for expressing many of our thoughts in such eloquent words.

  6. Kevin says:

    Well said Matt, yet another reason why your racing blog is head and shoulders above the rest, keep up the good work.

  7. donkers says:

    A brilliant summation on an extraordinary weekend Matt. Triumph and tragedy have rarely been so starkly contrasted within the realms of one sport. The deaths of the two young jockeys overshadows horse racing itself, but it also reflects how for many people it is their life. Without the owners, trainers, course officials, sponsors and the brave and skilled jockeys who are charged with steering a ton of solid thoroughbreed at high velocity over a multitude of tracks and surfaces, us punters would have nothing to talk about. Of course the industry needs us to, but events such as the weekend if there is any good to come from them, unite everyone who loves racing on a human level, rather than the ‘us versus them’ and ‘saints versus sinners’ agenda that usually prevails.

    As for Sea the Stars…WOW! Just stunning. I’m pleased to say I backed him at a biggish price for the Derby but have simply watched and admired his incredible feats since then. Truly one of the greatest ever and hopefully much more to come.

    And finally, Mr Fallon. One of the best flat jockeys in history, but a deeply flawed man and, probably, well past his prime. I’m ambiguous about the hero’s welcome he has received given the highly dubious and disreputable stains he has cast on the integrity of horse racing over the past several years. I’m also rather racked off as I decided to lay only one of his rides at the weekend. Our Kes!!


    Though a tenner each way on Cheveton more than covered my losses on that debacle. And so it is back to the bread and butter of a Monday’s racing at….somewhere. I haven’t even looked at the cards yet. This weekend was rather more of an emotional rollercoaster than anyone could have anticipated and a time for sombre reflection is required here.

  8. Richard says:

    Well done Matt for an excellent piece. You and Gavin are without doubt the best bloggers around and it shows your commitment that you continue to improve.
    I concur with all the sentiments with regard to our tragic babes, so sad. Your readers also seem to have Mr Fallon’s measure. An astute lot to be sure. As for Sea the Stars, yes he is absolutely brilliant and such a joy to watch on Saturday, however I have just a tinge of concern for a Derby winner that avoids the Derby distance. Lets hope he puts that right at Longchamp though like you I have my doubts. As Simon says and I agree, what we ( and Donny) really need is a Triple Crown winner but the breeders alas seem to disagree. Sea the Stars is wonderful horse and can’t be faulted for what he does and next year we could even be mentioning his name in the same breath as the mighty Brigadier (perhaps the true “best horse ever”) but will he get the chance? again I doubt it. As for a Triple Crown as things stand it seems to me that we may have to wait a long long time to see anything like the poetry of the Lester/Nijinsky combo again. Fallon! not in same league mate.

  9. bob marsden says:

    hi matt the bookies got wind of first manager out within minutes of me reading email he was 2 to 1 on ……anyway had a nice bet on top scorer sounds a great bet to me very logical when you are told about it so on the face of it lpa could be ok thanks again bob marsden

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