‘Profound’ depression forces Irish jockey Kieren Fallon into retirement after storied racing career

Fallon was champion jockey in Britain six times, and his relentless energy and power in the saddle helped him boot home over 200 winners in a year five times, reports Geoffrey Riddle.

Jockey Kieren Fallon, shown here aboard Krypton Factor at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, has retired from horse racing. Satish Kumar / The National
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Depression has finally beaten Kieren Fallon. It is one of the few things that is powerful enough to stop the irrepressible Irish jockey, 51, who did not even announce personally on Monday that he had retired from the saddle.

In his place, Dr Adrian McGoldrick told the world that one of racing’s great careers was at an end after the Irish rider visited the Turf Club’s chief medical officer on Sunday.

McGoldrick revealed that Fallon had been battling depression for over three years and quantified that the jockey’s problem was ‘profound’.

If there was ever a rider who defined the modern term ‘bouncebackability’ it is Fallon. But on this occasion the man from County Clare is unlikely to pull out of the bag another of his comebacks as McGoldrick effectively slammed the door firmly shut.

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“As soon as I can get a bed organised for him, he’ll be going to hospital here in Ireland,” McGoldrick said.

“He said he won’t be returning to race riding afterwards and will move on to another phase of his career, whatever that might be.

“He felt he had no motivation for the last two or three years and that had affected his depression.

“At this stage of his life he feels he has to move on.”

Fallon leaves behind a career that has more highs than most, and which is punctuated with more lows than any of his rivals.

Fallon was champion jockey in Britain six times, and his relentless energy and power in the saddle helped him boot home over 200 winners in a year five times. Unlike such Stakhanovite operators such as Silvestre de Sousa there was class throughout, too, with two Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe wins and 16 British Classic successes.

Two of those, King’s Best and Kris Kin, were for Saeed Suhail, the UAE businessman, and his last Classic victory was Night Of Thunder’s 2,000 Guineas triumph in 2014 for Saeed Manana.

He rode for all of the great racing operations, having formed a formidable partnership with Sir Henry Cecil, Sir Michael Stoute, Aidan O’Brien and, towards the end of his career, also rode for Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor.

And yet, he was twice banned for taking prohibited substances. In 2004 he was the subject of an investigation into race fixing and later faced a trial for conspiracy to defraud. He was banned from racing for 18 months before he was cleared by the Old Bailey in London of any wrongdoing.

Fallon brought colour to racecourses around the world, including to Meydan in Dubai, and on a going day was supremely gifted. He understood pace better than most, and his determination often got horses across the line when they really should not have won.

Fallon may have been a genius of a rider, but he was also fatally flawed as a person and the greatest test of his life may well have only just begun.


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