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Horse Racing: Latest episode does not necessarily spell the end.

Byline: James Willoughby Chief correspondent

WHAT else can happen to Kieren Fallon? By his own admission, he was already living on borrowed time before this story broke.

He may now fear his time has run out.

Nevertheless, this latest episode still does not necessarily presage the end of his turbulent career. His employers at Coolmore could wait 20 years for a jockey of comparable ability to come along, so they may judge this period of additional unavailability to be a comparatively minor inconvenience.

Speaking before the Melbourne Cup on November 7, Fallon expressed his frustration that the City of London police's criminal case against him for defrauding Betfair punters was still not reaching a conclusion. "If I don't get it resolved by the start of the next Flat season, that's me finished - I'll have to retire."

By Fallon's own measure, you would have to fear we may have seen the last of him. Assuming that the Turf Club in Ireland follows usual protocol, and reciprocates France Galop's six-month ban, Fallon would then be unable to ride in Britain, Ireland and France until June 7.

Yet, for all that, yesterday's news represents just the latest setback in Fallon's troubled career, and despite his own stated fears, it still may not mean the end of his tenure as retained jockey to John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.

The fact is that Fallon confers an unparalleled advantage to his employers.

The alternatives, though entirely worthy, are not sufficiently attractive to make it easy to dispense with him' if sticking by Fallon is a headache, the alternative is long-term malaise.

It should be stressed that France Galop made no judgement on the cause or circumstances in which Fallon came to have the metabolite of a prohibited substance in his system. That its quantity was also described as "exceedingly low" should theoretically absolve him from the full extent of censure incurred by other high-profile sportsmen associated with similar incidents.

But, whatever the technicalities of his testing positive for a prohibited substance, or irrespective of his employers' inclination towards them, the question to ponder now must be the Irish public's attitude towards Fallon.

Plenty were sympathetic towards Fallon's plight before this episode, because the Irish people's loyalty towards their own is renowned - particularly when the oppressor lies across the sea.

This was evinced by the public support he has received on recent racecourse appearances in Ireland, but there is a cumulative effect with the type of negative associations surrounding him that could possibly turn the balance of public opinion on its head.

The fact is that people could simply lose patience with Fallon. Trivial though it may be to some, the impact of any loss of status from his position as an Irish sporting icon should not be underestimated.

It is human nature that the more affection we lavish on someone, the more disappointed we are when they let us down. And there are only so many times we can tolerate disappointment.

CAPTION(S):

Kieren Fallon with Aidan O'Brien (left) and John Magnier
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 30, 2006
Words:508
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