Ihtimal: filly finished third in the 1,000 GuineasPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Fallon handed ride
on Oaks fancy Ihtimal
THE renaissance of Kieren Fallon continued apace on Tuesday when he was booked for the ride on leading Investec Oaks fancy Ihtimal.
In what is another body blow for Silvestre de Sousa, 49-year-old Fallon, who won the 2,000 Guineas this month, will take over on the Godolphin filly in the Epsom Classic, which he has won four times.
De Sousa has ridden Ihtimal to three of her four victories, completing the UAE Guineas and Oaks double on the daughter of Shamardal in February and steered her into third place in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. However, since the Guineas meeting, De Sousa has had to share mounts from Saeed Bin Suroor's stable with Fallon, who has also been preferred for the yard's Investec Derby challenger True Story.
De Sousa is one of two contracted riders to Godolphin but, like Mickael Barzalona, who rides for Charlie Appleby, he is no longer guaranteed to be on the stable's first string as the two trainers have chosen to adopt more flexible arrangements.
Bin Suroor revealed: "Ihtimal goes to the Oaks. She has been working really well and is in good form and ready to go.
"The ride is going to Kieren. Silvestre rode her at Newmarket, but Kieren knows the filly and we would like him to ride her.
"The situation is that it could sometimes be Kieren, sometimes Silvestre or another jockey, but it's clear to everybody now. Everybody knows there is no number one jockey."
Ihtimal is bet365's 7-1 joint second favourite for the Oaks with Tarfasha, the market headed by Taghrooda at a general 7-4.
Fallon said: "Ihtimal is a beautiful filly with a great pedigree. I think the ground was a bit firm for her at Newmarket.
"I have ridden her work a few times in Dubai. She was very impressive in the Oaks in Dubai - the further she went, the further she went away. She will stay and it could be a great weekend."
He added: "I like Epsom. It's a place where there is a buzz and it helps you ride with confidence and when you are riding good horses you have to have that confidence."
True Story, a seven-length winner of the Feilden Stakes under De Sousa, finished third behind The Grey Gatsby in the Dante Stakes on his first start under Fallon, but both trainer and jockey are convinced he will do better in the Derby.
"He came back sound," Bin Suroor said on Tuesday. "He jogged in the morning and cantered yesterday and today. He looks happy so we will take him straight to the Derby.
"Good ground will be better, and a mile and a half will be no problem. Kieren said he wants a mile and half and Epsom will suit.
"He was a little bit disappointing at York. Before the race I thought he was going to win, but he's still a nice horse for the future."
Bin Suroor still has Wood Ditton winner Basem, the brother of Farhh, engaged at Epsom and he is due to have his second start in a conditions race at Beverley on Saturday under De Sousa.
"We'll see how he runs and then we could think about the Derby," the trainer added. "However, it's more likely we will just take True Story."