Kieren Fallon, the talented yet controversial jockey, will have the eyes of the horse racing world on him when he returns at Lingfield today after an 18-month ban for testing positive for a prohibited substance for the second time in a year. The Irishman, last seen when riding Aidan O'Brien's Dylan Thomas to a brilliant victory in the 2007 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, has no shortage of bookings having secured seven rides for his high-profile comeback and seems set to walk into the books of some of the industry's best-known trainers.
Fallon also has the potential to claim two coveted Group One prizes before Monday. He rides favourite, High Standing, for William Haggas in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday before travelling to Germany to partner Mick Channon's Youmzain in the Grosser Preis von Baden. Fallon is also likely to ride Youmzain, considered by some as the unluckiest horse in training after just missing out on a string of Group One titles, in this year's Arc - a nice touch as it was Youmzain that Fallon beat for the title in a photograph in 2007.
Trainer, Luca Cumani, has spoken of the possibility of making a formal arrangement with Fallon and the man himself, a six-time champion jockey, has said he is keen to wrestle the title from current incumbent, Ryan Moore. Yet the County Clare rider has been no stranger to trouble during his turbulent career and it has been the darker side of his character that has led him into trouble and allowed some of his talent to go to waste.
He was charged and then exonerated of race-fixing allegations in a saga that stretched between 2004 and 2006, which forced his absence from British courses for three years. Fallon received his first six-month ban from French racing authority France Galop in November 2006, for testing positive for a metabolite of a banned substance. His subsequent positive test to a recreational drug, also in France, saw him receive the longer, worldwide 18-month suspension.
During his enforced absence from the parade ring Fallon also received treatment for alcohol addiction. His past misdemeanours also once saw him disciplined for hauling another jockey off his horse. But he has not been idle during his time out of the sport. Riding work for top trainer and former employer Sir Michael Stoute has allowed him to help prepare the stable's long list of stars for race days.
His last racing job before his ban was as first jockey to Ireland's master trainer O'Brien, one of the best positions in racing and a post since given to Dubai regular, Johnny Murtagh. Fallon, now 44, may have been forced to sit out what might have otherwise proved to be his best years, but top flat jockeys frequently continue into their 50s - the prime example being Mick Kinane, another rider who held the coveted Ballydoyle position.
If Fallon's return to race riding this weekend sees him not just older, but also wiser, the feeling within racing is that there is no reason why he cannot work his way back to the top of his game. Certainly he will be welcomed back into the parade ring with open arms. The racing public, who dubbed him "King Kieren" thanks to his ability to always be in the right spot in a race, have missed his character and skill.
They are expected to swell an otherwise ordinary day of racing Lingfield for a glimpse of one of the most talented and headline-grabbing riders of his, or any, generation. firstname.lastname@example.org