The last few days has seen a changing of the guard with regards two of the best jobs in racing. Firstly, Silvestre De Sousa was named as the jockey to join Frankie Detorri as retained rider for Goldolphin. Interestingly, the wording didn't say he was to be number two to the Italien.
Thursday morning saw the announcement, which surprised many, with the news that Paul Hanagan was to be first jockey to Hamdan Al Maktoum. The surprise was not that Hanagan got the job, he has been champion for the past two seasons, but that he accepted the post.
His young family is happy in the North (he will have to move South) and he seemed to have an unmoveable bond with Richard Fahey. Yet, when broken down, in true after timing fashion, he looks an ideal choice.
He is the right age (mid 30's), he is reliable and is universally liked. It will also afford Hanagan the chance to pit his wits against the best around. The downside, though, for me, is that it will severly dent his hopes of being champion three times in a row.
Hamdan has his horses spread far and wide and Hanagan will have to ride work on most and, despite Fahey saying he will use Hanagan when available, the Hamdan management tend to make up their minds late, which can entail a late switch of venue. Not ideal for booking a full book of rides at one meeting.
De Sousa's challenge is less cloudy. Tom Peacock, from the PA, informed me that Mark Johnston WILL use the Brazilian when he can - thus giving him plenty of potential firepower, but Johnston likes his horses jocked up at the 4-day stage. That will be tricky with Goldolphin
Therefore, it's no surprise to see that William Hill make Richard Hughes their 5-2 favourite from 9-2. Hughes is guaranteed nearly 100 winners from Hannon and his in prime. He would be my choice
I can reveal, though, that with the news that De Sousa and Hanagan may ride less winners this season, Kieren is going to give the title challenge one more go. The difference is that will we will start the assault from April rather than wait until May.
I'm not sure whether will will have enough firepower but the decision is to give it 100 per cent for one more season. Could be an interesting season, especially if Kieren wants to prove a point