Much has been written about the career of jockey Kieren Fallon. His retirement due to a diagnosis of clinical depression led to thousands of words being penned by better scribes than me, writes Vernon Grant.
His best rides, his Group 1 wins, his ability to get reluctant horses to win… it’s all been said.
Alastair Down can always be relied upon to pay tribute to the great and the good. He does so here regarding Fallon.
Some critics have said he was not good for the image of the sport. That bad publicity surrounded him. His long ban from the sport was a result of him testing positive for a banned substance. That was the second time he had failed a drugs test.
In more recent years punters, this one included, could get very frustrated by the jockey. Would he arrive at the racetrack when he was supposed to? If he did, what frame of mind was he in? Would it be a day when he was up for it, or one on which he appeared to be going through the motions. Stories of Fallon getting waylaid en route to racing are plentiful. Most of them are apocryphal. But not all.
But make no mistake about it, when on his game, Keiren Fallon was the best flat jockey since Lester Piggott.
Clinical depression is a debilitating illness and a very real one. It does not care if you are rich or poor. It has no interest in whether you are successful at your job. Clinical depression could not care two hoots if you earn a big wage. And it strikes when you least expect it.
What Winston Churchill named his ‘Black Dog’ is an unfriendly pooch. He lurks in the shadows and pounces when someone is already very tired, run down or stressed.
Someone suffering from the type of serious clinical depression that has struck Fallon feels as though they are stuck in a thick fog, living their life in a parallel world to those they see around them. They get up and go to bed, but the bit in the middle is a muddle. A mystery that is hard to solve.
Kieren has my sympathy and my very best wishes. Recovery will take time and likely require him to undergo a course of cognitive therapy.