10/26/2007 12:00AM

Fallon trial a tale of vice and intrigue

EmailNEW YORK - One of the definitions of the word "racy" is derived from horse racing, i.e., something that is exciting, colorful, and sometimes just a little bit dangerous. Applied to Kieren Fallon, the word is a perfect fit, although the man himself is frequently a little bit too dangerous for his own good.

Currently on trial in London on race-fixing charges, Fallon is a throwback to the early 19th century, when racing in England embroiled itself in scandal after scandal until Lord George Bentinck arrived on the scene and singlehandedly cleaned things up. What Bentinck would make of Fallon's latest predicament cannot be told, in part because nothing as ludicrous as betting on horses to lose a race had been conceived in his time.

Fallon and riding colleagues Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams have been charged with riding horses to lose 27 specific races between December 2002 and September 2004 so that a betting syndicate led by Thoroughbred owner and professional gambler Miles Rodgers could wager safely on their performances with Betfred, a British bookmaking firm that allows people to bet on horses to lose. That can of worms opened, the ugly little creatures naturally infested the game.

On Oct. 9, chief prosecutor Jonathan Caplan charged early in the Old Bailey proceedings that Fallon's victory aboard Russian Rhythm in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 15, 2004, was supposed to have been one of the races the Irish rider had been instructed to lose. Caplan claims that Russian Rhythm's victory cost Rodgers and his associates 160,000 pounds (about $300,000 at the time). So incensed was the Rodgers gang that they attempted to pay Fallon a late-night visit at his home in Newmarket, apparently to chastise him for the error of his ways.

But the Fallon team scored a point a few days later when it was alleged by the defense that Paul Scotney, director of security for the British Horseracing Board, which had initially investigated the case before turning it over to the London police, had said that he was out "to get" Fallon. The charge was made by the hightly respected Buckinghamshire trainer Alan Jarvis, who actually filed a complaint against Scotney with the police at the time of the alleged incident. That Scotney was said to be in a state of inebriation at the time he made the threat lends credence to the accusation if you believe that alcohol acts as a truth serum. Scotney became further embroiled when it was revealed that he allowed evidence concerning the case to be destroyed.

Drunkenness entered the deliberations again when undercover cop Robert Stirling, who on the night of May 26, 2004, was trailing Rodgers and three cohorts through the winding roads of the Sussex countryside, lost track of Rodgers's silver Mercedes, only to suddenly see it trailing him. When Stirling pulled over to the side, Rodgers pulled up behind him, clearly suspicious of the cop's bungling attempt at surveillance. The incident took place near the village of Cowlinge where Fallon was living at the time.

Stirling was followed by Rodgers back to Newmarket, where he took a strange sort of evasive action by making a spectacle of himself. Spotting a police car, he began driving erratically. The bait was taken and Stirling was pulled over in full view of Rodgers. Stirling then proceeded to feign drunkenness in an effort to put Rodgers off the idea that he might by spying on him.

Evidence damning to Darren Williams was presented on Oct. 18. Williams had been arrested the day after meeting with Rodgers in a North Yorkshire pub, during which envelopes had changed hands between Rodgers and jockey Gavin Faulkner with Williams present at the same table. At the arrest scene the next day, two envelopes containing 1,520 pounds ($2,800) were found in Williams's apartment. But the defense challenged the evidence, claiming that the initial report filed by two police officers who had witnessed the pub exchange differed from their later testimony.

Fixed races, car chases in the dead of night, doctored testimony, destroyed evidence. This is stuff straight out of a Dick Francis novel. I can't wait to see the movie version. If Fallon is exonerated, maybe he can play himself.

A truly great rider, Fallon has always had a taste for the wild side. A few years ago, tabloids hinted that he was "the other man" in the breakup of trainer Henry Cecil's marriage, a claim Fallon denied. More recently he was suspended for six months by the French stewards for testing positive for cocaine. It is a travesty of justice that he is not allowed to ply his trade in Britain, America, and Canada, because he has not yet been convicted of anything. But that is a big "yet," one that could eventually turn Fallon's racy career upside down.