Kieren Fallon: Six-time champion jockey retires because of depression

Kieran Fallon, the six-time British champion jockey, has retired from racing as he begins hospital treatment for depression.

The 51-year-old has been crowned champion jockey on six occasions and has ridden 16 British classic winners but, according to the Irish Turf Club’s chief medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick, he has “lost the motivation” to continue riding.

“Kieren is suffering from severe depression,” Dr McGoldrick said. “He has had quite significant depression for the best part of three years which has gone undiagnosed in England and America. It got worse and I met with him on Sunday and have arranged to have it managed.

“As soon as I can get a bed organised for him, he’ll be going to hospital in Ireland. Hopefully we can get him managed and get him ready for the next stage of his life.

“He said he won’t be returning to race-riding afterwards. 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 has previously spoken about his depression, opening up about the subject eight years ago. “When you’re depressed, you don’t want to get out of bed, you don’t want to face people, you don’t want to do anything,” he said.

“Depression’s a terrible thing, so it is. And the longer you leave it, the worse it gets.”

20-time champion jump jockey AP McCoy tweeted: “Best wishes to Kieren Fallon in his retirement, one of the most naturally talented/gifted jockeys I’ve ever seen.”

The Irishman was once dealt a six-month ban for hauling fellow jockey Stuart Webster off his horse while also being handed an 18-month suspension drugs ban in 2008.

He additionally faced a trial for conspiracy to defraud but the Old Bailey later cleared him and five others of any wrongdoing.

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Cheltenham Festival 2016: Who to back on day four, including in the Gold Cup

Day four unequivocally revolves around the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and this year promises to be a stellar renewal.

The Irish challenge is particularly strong, with Don Cossack, Vautour, Don Poli and Djakadam all expected to take up the ultimate engagement. Meanwhile Cue Card, whose season has gone from strength to strength at the top level, represents the best of the British challenge.

Colin Tizzard’s charge is also capable of earning a £1 million bonus if he comes home in front, a prospect that only adds to the race’s romanticism.


Vautour (L) and Cue Card (R) clash in the King George VI Chase

Few would begrudge the former festival winner this year’s crown but there will be no love lost once the tape is raised.

The undercard features some excellent racing too, with a couple of horses catching the eye from a betting perspective. 

Watch the video above for three tips ahead of Friday’s action.

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Six Nations 2016: England ready for life without Joe Marler as prop awaits fate over Samson Lee words

It is difficult to remember when three little words, spectacularly crass and wholly inappropriate as they may have been, caused the rugby authorities so much grief.

More than two days after Joe Marler, the England prop, aimed the phrase “Hey, gypsy boy” at his rival front-rower Samson Lee during the Triple Crown victory over Wales at Twickenham, the Six Nations authorities were still trying to figure out their next step.

Marler may well miss this weekend’s Grand Slam finale with France anyway: on Monday, the Harlequins forward was cited for striking his opposite number, Rob Evans, with his forearm at a first-half ruck. The offence carries a minimum ban of two weeks, so a guilty verdict will end the player’s hopes of participating in Paris.

Even though Marler apologised to Lee during the half-time interval last Saturday and was given an ear-bashing by the red-rose coach, Eddie Jones, who “reminded him of his responsibilities” as the saying goes, the tournament top brass found themselves unable to make a decision within the supposed 48-hour time limit for citings. Discussions were still in progress on Monday night, with a definitive call expected Tuesday.

Failure to level a charge of verbal abuse at the Englishman would set an awkward precedent for the sport and infuriate the Welsh, who voiced their concerns in no uncertain terms. “I think there is banter in the game, but there’s no place for that,” said the Red Dragons’ assistant coach, Rob Howley.

The England hierarchy took their own steps in dealing with Marler, although the 18st 8lb forward was not particularly discomfited by what amounted to a slap on the wrist. Jones consulted Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, to establish that any internal sanction was the responsibility of the coach rather than the committee man. He then had words with Marler and put the matter to bed.

“What Joe said wasn’t in the spirit of the game and he understands that,” Jones said. “It’s why he apologised straight away. People make mistakes – we all make mistakes – and the fact that he apologised at half-time is a real testament to his character. You don’t do that in a game of rugby unless you mean it.”

Jones was reluctant to say more until the judicial process had been exhausted, except to say that England were preparing for the France game on the basis that their number one No 1 will be available and would continue to do so until they were told otherwise. The coach also indicated that if the Six Nations disciplinarians decided to take no further action, he would follow their lead and select Marler for the Grand Slam match.

Amid the whys and wherefores of this tawdry affair, there was the winning of a Six Nations Championship to discuss. England’s first title since 2011 and only their second since the World Cup-winning year of 2003 was not marked by a full-on celebration: instead, the players enjoyed a “couple of quiet beers” (as opposed to 19 noisy ones) before settling into some serious analysis of the threat posed by France.


Eddie Jones, the England coach, enjoys the moment after his side clinched the Triple Crown with victory over Wales (Getty)

And yes, the threat is real. The Tricolores may have lost their last two games, having won the first two in a style a long way short of impressive, but Jones knows that his players will be riding for a fall if they fail to reproduce the accuracy and intensity they showed for an hour or more against Wales.

“The underlying thought is that you can’t underestimate the opposition in Test rugby,” said the Australian. “France are a proud country and their coach, Guy Novès, is a proud man with one of the best records in the European game. He promised his public that he and his team would be going back to the best traditions of French play and as they have no responsibility this weekend, they can perform with freedom and flair. That makes them dangerous. We must be right for this game. We must crush them with intensity.

“Some of the rugby they played against Scotland at the weekend was sublime: that first try of theirs was fantastic. If you allow them to do that, it becomes a problem. But our biggest problem will be ourselves, unless we get ourselves absolutely right.

“We should do that, because this is a wonderful opportunity. England have been playing international rugby since the 1870s – that’s only 100 years after Captain Cook arrived in Australia – and there have been only 12 English Grand Slams. Only  12 times have they been able to say conclusively that they’re the best team in Europe. Beat everyone and it’s a great achievement.”

According to the boss, his countryman Michael Cheika, the highly rated Wallaby coach, will be flying in this week for some “due diligence” ahead of England’s three-Test tour of Australia in June.

“I’m expecting so much fun on that trip,” Jones remarked. “Seriously, I think it’s going to be hilarious.

“Australia is one of the great sporting countries in the world and Australia versus England is one of the great contests. To be a part of it on the ‘other’ side will be absolutely fantastic.”

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England vs Wales: James Hook, Ben Morgan and Billy Twelvetrees look ahead to the Six Nations match-up

Let’s set the scene: whoever wins today wins the title, right?

James Hook: Yeah. Wales have Italy at home in the last game, so victory at Twickenham should do the trick. If England win they’ll have a massive advantage in points difference going to France. And there’s no guarantee the French will win in Scotland, is there? England could wrap up the whole thing here and now.

There’ll be no shortage of atmosphere, then.

Ben Morgan: It’s a huge game. Everyone who plays against England always seems to get up for the contest even more than usual, so there’ll be plenty of feeling around this one. Especially in light of the way it went last year at the Millennium Stadium. The Welsh will still be pretty bitter about that and want to go hard in reimposing themselves on Twickenham in the Six Nations context.

Is there anything of the fear factor left for the Welsh on the old cabbage patch?

JH: I think we went 20 years winning only once, but there have been three victories at Twickenham in recent times, so there’s no fear now. The boys love going there every bit as much as the supporters. When we travel now, we travel in confidence. 

Is the whole fear factor thing a myth, anyway? A media construct?

Billy Twelvetrees It’s fair to say the media overhype it, drum it up into something it isn’t. Some venues are more intimidating than others, but as professional players you enjoy the intimidating places more than the other kind. When we went to the Millennium Stadium last year for the first time since that heavy defeat on Grand Slam night in 2013, I just couldn’t wait to get out there. You have to remember that whatever pressure there is flying around, most of it is on the home team. I think both sides are confident going into Twickenham, but England will be the ones under the heat. I can see Wales fancying their chances.

Are Wales more confident than everyone else, anyway?

They know how to win, don’t they? I’m not sure their attacking rugby has been great in this tournament, but their defence has been phenomenal. They rely on it, as well as kicking well out of hand and at goal. I think England will be worried more about their defensive strength than their attack. Defence is the thing that gives Wales their belief.

We’ve already established that games against England bring out the best in everyone else, but what about this “hatred” business? Eddie Jones has used the H-word more than once and he’s hardly been here five minutes.

BM: I think there’s probably quite a bit in it. Speak to opponents after any match and they’ll tell you they focus more on England than any other team. Everyone wants to go out there and beat England.

Do you sense it yourself when you’re wearing the white shirt?

BM: Personally, I prepare exactly the same for every game: I don’t think, “I’m going to have to do extra here because of what they think of us.” But if you’re an England player you do tend to be told how much everyone hates you. When the Welsh and the Scots and the Irish lads come into the club and you get to be best mates with them, you naturally ask them what this “hatred” thing is all about. And they say: “Ah, it’s just what you do when you’re with your country. You just tell yourselves: “It’s the English.”

So, James… the truth of it, please. Do you still talk about Thatcher and the miners’ strike, or have you forgiven and forgotten?

JH: Talk about who?

BT: Are you really asking him about politics?

That was the thing, wasn’t it, back in the day? Phil Bennett’s famous team talk – look what these bastards are doing to our country and so on?

JH: I can’t say I think about it myself. Look, I loved playing against England and had some good times against them. The rivalry is there and you grow up with it: when you’re a boy, you’re told that you’re supposed to hate them, so you start out that way. But I don’t really see why: I’m here at Gloucester and all the blokes are great. If there’s something still there, it’s probably that Thatcher thing you’re on about.

What have you made of the Six Nations so far? There’s been plenty of criticism.

BM: The rugby probably hasn’t been the most attractive, but from an English point of view it’s gone all right. Speaking to a couple of the lads, they think there’s more to give. When things really click you’ll see some special rugby.

If there’s a problem spectacle-wise, what is it? Does the comparison with a southern hemisphere-dominated World Cup make this tournament look substandard?

BT: It’s just the northern hemisphere game, isn’t it? The Six Nations is always closely contested and fiercely competitive: look at England-Ireland, Wales-France… it’s about closing out games in really tight circumstances. Teams aren’t simply going to run on to the field and throw the ball around just for the sake of it, just to please people. It’s about winning, nothing else. 

Didn’t the World Cup provide conclusive evidence of a gulf between north and south?

The panel

James Hook 

(Wales, utility back, 81 caps): Scored a full house – try, conversion, penalty, drop goal – against England in 2007 and ran in a brilliant individual try against them in 2010.

Ben Morgan 

(England, No 8, 31 caps): The World Cup forward was raised in the West Country but made his first professional impact in Wales with the Scarlets.

Billy Twelvetrees 

(England, centre, 19 caps): The Gloucester captain started every game in the 2014 Six Nations after playing for the British & Irish Lions in Australia the previous summer.

BT: For six months of the year we play in quite difficult conditions – wet, heavy pitches and all the rest of it – so it’s no surprise that it’s what we do best, keeping it tight and grinding out the wins. You look at the Super 15 or Super 18 or however many it is now, and they’re all playing in dry conditions. It’s easier for them to put some pace and width on the ball, so it’s become a part of their DNA. How we win games up here is sometimes very different: we’re often talking 10-man rugby with a big defence and that’s what’s in our DNA. But on occasion, we can do other things, England-France last year being an obvious example.

JH: Billy mentions that England-France game, and on the same afternoon Wales went to Rome and put 60 points on Italy. The strongest teams in Europe can score tries and prove it when the circumstances are right, but the pressure to win the big prizes… I think the southern hemisphere teams are more familiar with that and they deal with it in a different way. Better than us, probably.

BT: I don’t think there’s a massive gulf at all. If you look at the World Cup, the Scots should have made the semi-final – speak to Greig Laidlaw any day after training here and he’ll tell you about it. Wales were a few minutes away from beating South Africa. It could easily have been another story. And if you look at the Premiership and the quality of the tries being scored every week, there’s some great rugby being played. I just think that, when push comes to shove, we fall back on how we know we can win games. The New Zealanders’ confidence is rooted in knowing how to win – they’re in the ultimate winning culture – but they don’t always play great rugby. There’s a lot of perception at work here.

Ben, you’re the forward here. What can we do about the scrums? I’m not blaming you personally, but the set piece is like watching paint dry.

BM: When the front-rowers are feeling done in, they need their two-and-a-half-minute rest.

Even if the game is only six minutes old?

BM: I think it’s difficult around the scrum. The front row is such a technical area, I don’t know a great deal about what goes on there – and I’m closer to it than most. The way the set-piece engagement is now, body position is everything. If someone finds himself slightly out of synch and can just slightly rock things to get a reset and put himself in a better place, he will. I think referees can probably be more severe from the start. I also think people could stay on their feet more than they do at the moment. I can honestly say that we work quite hard on that here – that we attempt to stay off the floor even if we’re going backwards. If there was more of that attitude and if the referees took a really firm grip and went for quick cards, teams would adapt fast because they don’t want to lose players to the bin.

Is all this a frustration for you artists in the back line?

BM: They enjoy the two-and-a-half-minute rest as much as everyone else.

BT: It’s part of the game, but it can be difficult at times. James might call a move off the scrum and I’m thinking: “Sweet, but let’s get the ball out of there first.”

JH: When you boil it down, a good scrum gives you a brilliant attacking platform. But there are times when you barely see the ball from the set piece. It’s reached the point where we hardly practise moves off scrums. We have a few in the repertoire but…

BM: I hear that, but the scrum is not something I’d like to see disappear. It’s a massive part of our game. If you have a pack establishing dominance in an area that involves such physical exertion, you’re sucking the life out of the opposition. Do that and you’re off playing rugby, aren’t you? It’s where all the little gaps come from, the little holes that people with the right skills can exploit.

Has anyone in particular caught your eye over the first three Six Nations rounds?

BM: Probably Gareth Davies, the Wales scrum-half. Since Rhys Webb got injured just before the World Cup, he’s really grown into the position. Under Rhys he was probably getting 10 minutes of rugby maximum. Now, he’s making real progress.

Is he as quick as he looks?

JH: He is. Absolute lightning.

BT: I’ve been impressed by the way George Ford and Owen Farrell have combined at 10 and 12 for England. They’ve given the team some go-forward, some width and some control. From an overall match perspective, I think they’ve made a very positive impact. And with Billy Vunipola playing as he is, they’re able to operate on the front foot.

What do you think of Vunipola, Ben? You were playing him off the park when you suffered that horrible injury at the start of last year.

BM: Ha! He’s flying, isn’t he? Flying high. As Billy said, it’s all about confidence. I think, with Eddie Jones coming in, some of the boys have loosened up a little bit maybe. Billy, in particular, has been outstanding.

Do you see some growth in England’s attacking game?

BM: I think the structure is broadly the same.

BT: I agree. You still have good players there, making good decisions. I think they’ve simplified things to a degree, but it still comes down to Ben Youngs, George and Owen making sound calls about when to go through people and when to go to the wide guys. They’re making inroads and it’s encouraging to watch. But in this game, we’re looking at two teams with very good defensive systems, so there’ll be a lot of kick pressure and a big emphasis on discipline around the ball. There’ll be some attacking threat from both teams in the opposition 22, but in that middle third of the field the fight for scraps of advantage will be huge. The tempo will shoot up if there’s a good attacking position in the red zone, but the battle elsewhere will be a defensive one.

James, a quick question on your non-specialist area, if I may: how are Wales so proficient at stopping driving line-outs when no one else can fathom it out?

There’s a lot of technical work goes into it, or so I’m told, but I think the main thing is the fear factor associated with protecting the Wales line. The ferocity Shaun Edwards brings to his work as defence coach… it’s crazy, really. No one wants to miss a tackle for fear of seeing their name up there on the whiteboard come Monday and being shot down in front of everyone else. The boys respect him, that’s for sure.

So who wins?

BT: England.

BM: Yeah, England.

JH: Aaah, I’m struggling here.

BT: What will be interesting is where people’s heads turn out to be. Wales won that World Cup game and it was huge for them, so by coming with largely the same team they’ll fear nothing. How will England be thinking in terms of that match last September? 

BM: I think England will be massively up for it, precisely because of what happened at the World Cup. There are always hangovers when you’ve been beaten in one of these games: the motivation comes from the embarrassment of having lost and the way it sits with you. The guys involved last time will be desperate to put it right and the new players will respond to the “let’s sort this out” feeling in the air.

James, you’re still thinking…

JH (through gritted teeth): I do think England will nick it, because they have people who can unlock a defence and create stuff. It will be tight, really tight, and it will come down to the smallest margins. But I see England sneaking it. Just.

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Clouds should rise to top amid host of Aintree clues

It’s an unofficial Grand National trials’ day with several leading Aintree players taking final exams around Britain this afternoon, including Many Clouds, joint-favourite to follow up last year’s victory and become the first horse to win the world’s most famous jumps race back-to-back since Red Rum in 1973-74.

Trainer Oliver Sherwood has picked Kelso’s Premier Chase for Many Clouds’ last warm-up, a race not chosen for terrestrial TV coverage, but good enough for Donald McCain, the son of Red Rum’s trainer, Ginger, when he mapped out Ballabriggs’ successful National campaign five years ago.

Ballabriggs, also owned by Trevor Hemmings, was actually beaten at Kelso, but it will be surprising if Many Clouds, greatly favoured by these weights, does not brush aside fellow National entries Unioniste, Perfect Candidate and Maggio.

Many have tried – and all have failed – to emulate Red Rum, who went on to a third National triumph in 1977, but Many Clouds has perhaps a better chance than any of bringing it off. Still only nine and perhaps yet to peak, he remains in fine form and, off just a 5lb higher rating, is arguably one of the best handicapped horses in the big race.

Shutthefrontdoor, fifth last April when providing Tony McCoy with his final National ride, and The Druids Nephew, bowling along merrily in front until taking an unlucky fall five fences from home, are strong fancies to do better next month.

They have a lot more on their plates today than Many Clouds in competitive affairs at Newbury and Doncaster respectively, in particular the former, who is likely to find the two and a half miles of the Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase too sharp.

Paul Nicholls has won this race an impressive seven times in the past 10 years and has a strong hand again with Art Mauresque and Sametegal, who predictably head the market.

It might, though, be worth chancing Off The Ground. He has fallen twice in four starts since joining Charlie Longsdon and is not the most fluent of jumpers, but he has been racing with zest, is attractively weighted and has ground conditions to suit.

Now up 9lb, The Druids Nephew may have missed his big chance for Grand National glory. We may have a better idea after he runs in the Grimthorpe Chase, but here, and perhaps again at Aintree, he may struggle to cope with the exciting The Last Samuri

Trainer Kim Bailey is convinced The Last Samuri is a genuine National horse, if not this year then next, and being a great believer in striking while the iron is hot, decided after the eight-year-old’s taking Kempton win over Christmas that it should be this year. 

Earlier, the 2014 Aintree hero Pineau De Re has his prep in the Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Newbury, along with Alvarado, fourth in the past two Nationals. Today is not the main target for any of these National contenders, but The Last Samuri has a solid look about him, while Pineau De Re showed when winning at Carlisle in December, that there is life in the old dog yet.

Charlie Appleby’s Tryster, an impressive winner of a Group Three on his first run in Dubai last month, is odds-on to land the Group One Jebel Hatta at Meydan’s “Super Saturday” fixture.

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