By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent
Kieren Fallon's rise from humble roots in Ireland to recognition as perhaps the greatest jockey on the globe has been one of sport's - let alone racing's - most remarkable stories. Pure box office.
But his future in the sport is uncertain following his 18-month ban for failing a drugs test in France - his second offence in recent times.
It comes just a matter of weeks after his acquittal in the high-profile race-fixing trial at the Old Bailey.
The "uneducated" (his description) plasterer's son from County Clare, who had once balanced precariously on the back of the family's pony, came to define brains, confidence and precision in the saddle of thoroughbreds the world over.
His CV positively overflowed, in the caricatured manner of champagne flutes at Royal Ascot.
Quietly spoken he may be, but Fallon positively shrieked his domination, with six champion jockey titles in Britain and seasonal scores of 200-plus winners four times, totals that included victory in three Epsom Derbys.
FACTFILE: KIEREN FALLON
Born: 22 Feb 1965, Crusheen, Co Clare - one of six children
Height: 5ft 3"
Starting out: Apprenticed to trainer Kevin Prendergast, Kildare; shared flat with future Irish champion jumps jockey Charlie Swan
Champion jockey: Six times (1997-1999, 2001-2003)
UK/Irish Classic wins: 15
Whether it be in Classic or international races, working for champion trainers like Henry Cecil and Sir Michael Stoute, or the lowliest prize at Catterick, Fallon was the man to do the business.
He earned the nickname 'the assassin' by getting the job done quickly, quietly and effectively, and then going on his way.
Dark, serious and brooding, with the suspicion of a scar on his face, he even looked the part, the very opposite of bubbly arch rival Frankie Dettori.
"It's outwitting the other bastards (jockeys) that gives you the buzz," he once said.
It seemed that with a rare brilliance in the saddle, wealth and fame, he had everything, but there was always another side to Kieren Fallon.
Even the Irish rider's most ardent fans had to concede that within their man's make-up was also an uncommon talent for finding trouble - all kinds of trouble - though none of it related to his appearance in court 12 at the Old Bailey.
There was the six-month ban imposed for furiously dragging another jockey from his horse at Beverley, and a £400 fine that followed a swearing tirade against an official at Pontefract.
Those were just two headline grabbers sandwiched between literally dozens of other 'bad boy' incidents: the assassin didn't miss many important targets but was always in danger of exploding himself.
In reflective mood, some years later, he said: "I was young and wild. When things didn't go right for me, I got annoyed.
"I have mellowed. When I was a kid, I didn't know what I was about and I had no regard for authority, but I learnt to bottle it up."
In truth, Fallon had been forced to grow up.
In 1998, amidst plenty of gossip and rumour - the meat and drink of horse racing - the jockey won a high-profile libel action against the now defunct Sporting Life newspaper over accusations about his controversial riding of a horse called Top Cees at Newmarket.
And a year later, Fallon, then married to ex-jockey Julie Bowker, became a star of the nation's gossip columns.
During Glorious Goodwood that summer, he was sensationally sacked by Henry Cecil after an alleged affair between the trainer's wife, Natalie, and an unidentified jockey.
For weeks after the announcement - I will never forget the sense of stunned amazement when the news broke - tongues wagged. Fallon always strenuously denied any involvement.
He soon moved on to work for another big-name trainer, Michael Stoute, before ultimately joining John Magnier's magnificent Irish-based Coolmore racing and bloodstock empire.
However, with a career path that swung violently from silky smooth to extra bumpy, highs of almost celestial proportions would always be punctuated by deep lows, including a career-threatening shoulder injury, drink problems and later a failed cocaine test.
Enough there for Hollywood? You would have thought so, but then came the knock on the door from City of London police investigating alleged race-fixing.
The big question now is will Fallon bounce back?
The answer is that he's had to before, and has always managed it - spectacularly.
But with Fallon approaching his 43rd birthday next month and with this ban due to run until August 2009, this will probably be the hardest return.
However, screenwriters everywhere should still be ready for the next instalment.
FALLON - THE UPS
1984: Rides first winner, Picadilly Lord, at Navan.
1988: Partners first winner in Britain, Evichstar, at Thirsk for new boss, Jimmy FitzGerald.
1993: Starts successful four-year stint with trainer Lynda Ramsden.
1997: Appointed stable jockey to Henry Cecil; won 1,000 Guineas on Sleepytime; champion jockey for the first time; first double century of winners (202).
1998: Awarded £70,000 damages after winning libel action, with Ramsden and her husband Jack, against the Sporting Life over allegations about the running and riding of their horse Top Cees.
1999: Wins first of three Epsom Derbys (Oath)
2003: Wins the Derby for a second time (Kris Kin); champion Flat jockey for sixth time.
2004: Second Oaks-Derby double on Ouija Board and North Light.
2005: Joins John Magnier's Coolmore team in County Tipperary; wins first Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Hurricane Run).
2006: Fourth victory in 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket (George Washington); wins Irish Derby (Dylan Thomas).
2007: October - Lands the Arc aboard Dylan Thomas on the eve of his Old Bailey trial.
December - Found not guilty of race-fixing allegations.
FALLON - THE DOWNS
1989: Replaced on Ebor Handicap fancy Sapience because of inexperience.
1994: Banned for six months after dragging fellow jockey Stuart Webster from his mount at Beverley.
1999: Job as stable jockey to Henry Cecil ends after newspaper allegations concerning the trainer's wife. Fallon denies any involvement.
2000: Suffers a career-threatening shoulder injury at Royal Ascot and misses the rest of the season.
2002: Features in Panorama TV documentary called 'The Corruption of Racing', but dismisses any suggestion of wrongdoing.
2003: Enters rehab clinic after admitting alcohol problem.
2004: Causes outcry and banned for three weeks after allegedly easing prematurely and being passed near finish on leader Ballinger Ridge at Lingfield in March. Accused of race-fixing, which he strongly denies, in five-page News of the World 'expose'.
On 1 September, one of 16 people arrested in dawn raids by City of London police. Released on bail, but pipped to jockeys' title by Frankie Dettori.
2006: July - Charged with conspiring to defraud customers of online betting exchange Betfair. Banned from racing in Britain until his trial, but free to ride in Ireland and France.
December - Banned for six months after failing drugs test from sample taken in France.
2007: September - Three years after his arrest, goes on trial at Old Bailey with five others, including jockeys Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams.
2007: 7 December - Acquitted of race-fixing, along with Lynch, Williams and three others.
2007: 8 December - Newspapers report that Fallon tested positive for a banned substance in France in August.
2008: January - Given an 18-month ban for failing a drugs test.