Fallon Takes 2005 Gulfstream Debut

(from Gulfstream Park report)
Kieren Fallon, the six-time English riding champion, made a splash in his 2005 debut at Gulfstream Park Thursday, riding Cartoonist to victory in the ninth race.

"Luckily I had the horse that could get me out of trouble," said Fallon after Cartoonist emerged from a pack of horses and sprinted to a half-length win over Excellent Cut in the $33,000 allowance race.

The 39-year-old Irishman is coming off a second-place finish behind Frankie Dettori for the 2004 season in Great Britain.

Fallon rode at Gulfstream Park when the Breeders' Cup was held over the old racing surface in 1999. Of his three mounts, his best result was a fifth-place finish aboard Borgia in the Filly and Mare Turf. This is his first attempt to ride long-term in the U.S.

"The tracks here are beautiful, and the racing here is very tough," said Fallon. "It's very competitive and this is the place to prove yourself as a rider. I've learned and done as much as I can in Europe. I want to prove to myself that I can compete on this level."

Fallon is following a path not often taken by Europe's best jockeys. Lester Piggot, while successful in the U.S., never tried to race through an entire meeting. Other European riders have made careers here, like Jean Cruguet or Jean-Luc Samyn, but they had not been established in their homeland. The different riding styles employed are part of the reason few Europeans try to make the switch.

"Over there, we grab up right away, rate, and then try to time our run," said Fallon. "Here it is all about speed."

Fallon has been working for several top trainers during morning workouts.

"The trainers have been great letting me work the horses in the morning and working from the gate," he said. "For me, that's the most important thing. I can't change my style. Gary Stevens can go over to Europe and do very well. He didn't have to change his style. I can't really change how I ride, but I do have to remember how important speed is here."

Fallon puts his dirt-riding skills to the test on Saturday when he guides Magna Graduate to the post in the Aventura Stakes and The Judge Sez Who from the rail in the Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III).

Cartoonist ran his record to two wins from four starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Team Valor Stables.

(Chart, Equibase)