Wesley Ward has paid tribute to Kieren Fallon, who retired this week
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
By Jon Lees 9:00AM 7 JUL 2016
AMERICAN trainer Wesley Ward has spoken of the challenge jockeys like Kieren Fallon face when they have to come to terms with accepting they are no longer among the world’s most in-demand riders.
Ward said going from being at the summit of your profession to feeling like you were not wanted and having to grapple with what to do with the rest of your life was extremely difficult to deal with.
But whatever Fallon does in retirement, such are his gifts with horses he would be an asset to any racing operation he worked for and even capable of making the transition to training himself, Ward said.
Fallon’s retirement was announced on Monday, when it emerged the six-time champion jockey, 51, had been suffering from depression for the last three years and required hospital treatment.
Ward, himself an ex-jockey who won an Eclipse award, said: “I think that’s normal. Most jockeys considering retirement are going to go through that, especially for a guy like him who’s been a jockey since he was a boy. There are only a handful of jockeys in the world who have been as successful as him and won the races he has.
“He’s getting to the point where it’s the end, and he understands that, and competing against jockeys who are younger, stronger and quicker. He’s got to come to terms with that and it’s very difficult because riding is like a drug.
“He was on top of the world, one of the best the world’s ever seen, and people were fighting to get to him. Now nobody wants him. That is challenging for anyone he now has to grasp what he wants to do for the rest of his life. You have to jump out of the fast lane and into the slow lane and find your role.”
‘I love that little fella’
During last year when he was in the States, Fallon spent part of his summer working at Ward’s Keeneland operation, where the pair developed a close bond.
“I love that little fella,” Ward added. “He’s very talented and very perceptive on a horse. He can spot-on tell you if there’s an issue or problem, whether a horse does or doesn’t have talent, if a horse is going to be better later on. He’s an amazing guy.
“I’m sure anyone from Sir Michael Stoute down to the trainer in River Downs, Ohio, would love to have him on their team because he’s such a great asset. I’d love to have him working for me on my best horses like Lady Aurelia.
“There’s nobody else in the world I’d want more than him on the back of that horse taking it to the races. I’d value his opinion.”
Ward added: “Hopefully he can find happiness in getting a position in a stable. If there ever was a jockey that could go on and be a trainer it would be Kieren.”