Whatever the fate of Cazoo Derby favourite Desert Crown in this year’s Epsom Classic – which will be run in memory of Lester Piggott – Kieren Fallon feels Sir Michael Stoute’s greatest training performance was getting Kris Kin to win the 2003 renewal.
Dante Stakes winner Desert Crown has had just two starts in his career, with a bruised foot halting his preparation before he started serious work this spring, so it will be a remarkable feat should he remain unbeaten after the big race on June 4.
Yet Fallon, who was aboard Kris Kin when he won the Derby with what is regarded as one of the great Epsom rides, considers Stoute’s third of five Derby winners the most unlikely.
The 57-year-old, a mainstay of the Freemason Lodge yard throughout his career, is now a key contributor to Charlie Appleby’s success at Godolphin as a work rider and advisor.
Fallon, who won the Derby three times, with Oath for Sir Henry Cecil, and both Kris Kin and North Light for Stoute, said: “I recently played golf with (Derby-winning jockey) Johnny Murtagh and Ed Chamberlin in the WellChild charity golf event at the Belfry. I played with Johnny, and even today, he is still going on about Kris Kin.
“He said, ‘You nicked that race on Kris Kin!’
“Johnny is still not happy about it,” Fallon laughed. “He said, ‘That useless thing Kris Kin. I see you going down the inside and there is no chance you are going down there, and by going round the inside and sneaking around there, you had the pick of the race’.
“That Derby is the one that got away from him. He rode Alamshar (eventual third), one he really liked.”
The son of Kris S had previously won the Dee Stakes at Chester – unceremoniously unseating Fallon after the line – en route to Epsom and was a major gamble on Derby day, being backed down from all rates to 6-1 fourth-favourite in the 20-runner field, headed by 2000 Guineas winner Refuse To Bend.
Despite public confidence, the yard were far from content, as Stoute conceded: “Kris Kin was frequently lame and he was probably the most surprising Derby winner we had.
“I took him out of the Derby – I can’t tell you the month and the date – but I took him out because he was lame and I thought there was no way we could have him right for a prep race before the Derby.
“The recovery was quicker than we anticipated and he went to Chester and we had to supplement him for the Derby, having been in it initially.”
Even after getting over one injury, there was a major problem 48 hours before the big race, as Stoute recalled: “He came out for a pick of grass on Thursday afternoon and when he came out he was fine, and when he started to walk back into his box he took a lame step and he actually trotted up lame.
“But there was no heat anywhere. We just put some ice on his joints and an hour later he was perfectly sound.”
Fallon still feels that his length defeat of The Great Gatsby was as remarkable as it was unlikely, and despite Stoute’s record 82 Royal Ascot winners and five Derby wins, it remains the pinnacle of the 76-year-old’s training mastery.
He explained: “Kris Kin wasn’t that good, and even Sir Michael said, ‘Look Kieren, if you get a better ride, take it’.
“I don’t know why Kris Kin was well backed because he was lame two days before.”
Desert Crown will carry the same blue with yellow chevron colours of owner Saeed Suhail in the premier Epsom Classic that Kris Kin’s rider sported.
Should the colt give the 10-times champion trainer a sixth Derby, 41 years after he first struck with the legendary Shergar, Fallon feels nothing will compare to the trainer’s third winner of the blue riband.
He added: “Even if this horse wins for Sir Michael and they will say ‘what a great performance’, his best was Kris Kin, because he should not have won that race. It was the greatest training performance of all time.
“Any other trainer would not have even run him in the race if you’d have seen him two days before.”