Sunday, 19 February 2012

Firm favourite for Hamdan job? Good news for Fehily, plenty of good Luck

The news of the imminent retirement of Richard Hills has already, not surprisngly, produced plenty of names potentially in line to replace the 49-year-old.

It has been reported that Hills, who replaced Willie Carson as stable jockey to Hamdan Al Maktoum in 1997, will hang up his boots after the conclusion of this year’s Dubai Carnival. Who is likely to assume the main role?

Tadgh O’Shea has been number two to Hills for the past two seasons but, even though Hamdan has in the past promoted from within, the speculation is that the Sheikh will go for a higher profile name.

Mikel Barzalona, Maxine Guyon (both based in France), William Buick, Paul Hanagan and even Kieren have been mentioned for one of the best jobs in racing. The general consensus, though, is that Silvestre De Sousa would head any lists now the news has become public.

De Sousa finished runner-up to Hanagan in last season's Jockey’s Championship. He rode all of Mark Johnston’s string in the latter part of the campaign (including Hamdan's) and rode winners for Goldolphin. There could, however, be three other reasons why he could be the front runner.

Firstly, the 31-year-old is the right age(Richard Hills took over in his early 30’s), he was invited to ride in Dubai by Sheikh Mohammed and so far is the leading rider at the Carnival; thus proving himself against the best jockeys in the world.

It seems that De Sousa is in the right place at the right time especially after a former champion ruled himself out on Sunday. I don't believe, like some, that Hamdan will use the best available, otherwise it makes O'Shea's job redundant.

Luck plays a big part in most sports. That’s something that can’t be levelled at top jump jockey Noel Fehily, who must have a huge collection of black cats.

Fehily looked set to cement his position as second jockey to Paul Nicholls after a string of important wins for the handler in 2010 before a serious wrist injury ruled out him of the King George and the ride on Kauto Star.

Daryl Jacobs stepped into the breach and Fehily was left on the sidelines.
The news that he has now teamed up with the ever-growing yard of Emma Lavelle's as stable jockey is like Prince Charming finding Cinderella. Fehily is a top-class horseman and the nearest in style to the incomparable Ruby Walsh.

Lavelle is rapidly-improving the quality of her string and the partnership with Fehily has unlimited potential. Fehily has hopefully used up all his share of bad luck.

Talking of Luck, the much-hyped show on Sky Atlantic, aired on British screens on Saturday, and I have to admit that I was impressed. The racing scenes were realistic, the acting fine although, whereas former jock Gary Stevens had a decent speaking role, current rider Chantel Sutherland was mainly in the background.

It’s set in the world of horse racing but it’s not just for the aficionado’s of the sport, although some racing terms would seem alien to non-racing people.

There are stories aplenty bubbling under the surface and the presence of Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte (with a strange gravelly voice) gives it added kudos. Well worth a glance.

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