Kieren Fallon will once again don the Queen’s famous purple and gold silks at Epsom on Derby Day.
As part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the six-time champion and three-time Derby-winning Irishman will be among those in a guard of honour formed on the track by 40 retired and current jockeys to have ridden for Her Majesty.
“It is different, obviously, when you put on those colours and ride for the Queen,” said Fallon. “I rode for her mother, the Queen Mother, which does make me very old!”
Fallon was one of the most gifted riders of his generation and few have better conquered the eccentricities of Epsom’s undulating track, but he has always been bedevilled with self-consciousness and modesty, a counterweight to his brilliance in the saddle.
His awkwardness under the media glare was accentuated in the parade ring, where there is nowhere to hide when sporting the royal silks. Yet both Queen Elizabeth and her daughter were always on hand to ease any angst.
Fallon explained: “I remember riding for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at Windsor one Monday. I think it was Ian Balding’s Double Brandy that I rode for her.
“I was trying to walk to see Sir Michael (Oswald, racing manager to the Queen Mother) and I was looking at him, and she is trying to get my attention and obviously you can see her out of the corner of your eye.
“Obviously the security guys are around her and they stick their foot in front of you and it’s ‘come here!’.
“You have to speak to the Queen Mother, and it is like that with the Queen. You are kind of embarrassed, because you don’t think it is your position and something you are not used to.
“But whoever rides for her, for anybody, whether it is Ryan Moore, Frankie Dettori, when you put the colours on – especially aspiring young apprentices – it is very different. It gives you a huge boost.
“The other side of the coin is that she is such a lovely woman as well. She is actually just another person and a lovely person. She makes you comfortable. And the Queen Mother was exactly the same.
The Queen, who is a patron of the Jockey Club, has had more than 1,800 winners globally, with more than 1,000 in Great Britain, the first being Monaveen over the jumps at Fontwell Park in 1949.
She has twice been champion owner on the Flat in Britain, in 1954 and 1957.
Last year she accumulated 36 winners on the Flat, a record tally for her. With the exception of the Derby, she has bred and owned the winner of every British Classic, and maintains long-established bloodlines, still playing a leading role in the breeding of her horses, which are foaled at the Royal Stud in Sandringham.
Her Majesty will not have a runner in racing’s blue riband this year, as the race came too soon for her top hope Reach For The Moon following a setback.
“It is a shame she won’t have a runner in the Derby, as it would have been a joy with the Platinum Jubilee,” he said.
Fallon retired from race-riding at the age of 51 in 2016.
His career was not without controversy and is well documented. Yet his roller-coaster time in the saddle also included 16 British Classic winners and a couple of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe successes, along with the odd regret.
He almost added to the top-class tally in the royal silks in 2001, when Flight Of Fancy, a daughter of Sadler’s Wells, finished runner-up to Imagine in the Oaks on the fourth and final start of her career.
“I remember winning on Blueprint at Newmarket in the Jockey Club Stakes for her,” said Fallon. “That was a good day and I gave that one of my better ones.
“But the highlight of riding for the Queen – a bittersweet one – was finishing second in the Oaks for Stoutey (Sir Michael Stoute) on a filly who was a light, frail little thing.
“She ran her heart out and finished second, and obviously it would have been a dream come true had she had won. But we were still placed and it was a great day. She would have been delighted with that.”
Possessing such vast experience, the 57-year-old Fallon is now a key cog in Godolphin’s operation, riding out and advising Newmarket trainer Charlie Appleby, as well as keeping a watchful eye on son, Cieren, who is fast becoming one of the top professional jockeys of his generation.
He has a deep sense of pride over his burgeoning career and is well-placed to steer the 21-year-old around the pitfalls he encountered in his own.
“He has come a long way in a short time,” said Fallon. “I give him a hard time as well. I am really, really bad. I wish I was a millimetre as dedicated as he is.
“I need to keep him grounded. I was lucky enough that I knew I was very gifted, but I didn’t have the dedication.”
Stoute, O’Brien and Appleby will all have runners in the Derby and while Her Majesty will be an enthusiastic onlooker, Fallon knows she is the ultimate equine pragmatist.
“It would have been nice for her had Reach For The Moon been ready,” said Fallon. “But she knows her racing, she knows the ups and downs and she has been through a lot of tough times in her life.
“It was always special to ride for the Queen Mother and the Queen,” said Fallon.
“I was lucky enough to ride for great trainers and I get on with them. I never really had a cross word.