Jockeying for position
Every flat racing season, about this time, there will be a small group of jockeys, well, those who are lying at or near the top section of the jockey's table anyway, planning how to make a concerted attack on the elusive prize that awaits the jockey who leads the table at the end of this season proper, which will officially end in the early part of November. This is of course the sought after pennant of leading jockey in Great Britain for the flat season of 2012.
At this point in time, there are two jockeys slugging it out, neck and neck, Ryan Moore and Richard Hughes, with the position as leader constantly changing, even day by day, as the weeks fly by. It does appear, on current form, and barring accidents, that the destination of this season's title does lie between these two excellent riders, as their nearest erstwhile challengers, Paul Hanagan, Willie Buick, and Silvestre de Sousa, are more than 20 winners behind the leading two.
Earlier on this season, one Joe Fanning, with the powerful Mark Johnson stable behind him, built up a good early lead, but faded out of contention as the race for the title hotted up. The champion for the last two seasons, Paul Hanagan, although riding as well as ever, and still involved in the Fahey stable, was lucky enough to receive the retainer as first jockey to the Hamdan al Maktoum empire, taking over that plum job from the retiring Richard Hills, who had served it well for around twenty years. It is a fact that this commitment has had a fierce restriction on Hanagan's usual habit of riding all over the country for any stable that would give him a mount, and as a result his winner total this year is not as fluent as heretofore. It is well known that any big commitment to a large stable can be detrimental to any jockey's ambitions to win a jockey's title, for he has mainly to go where his contract indicates he should go. Signs on, the last champion jockey to come out of the Maktoum connection was Willie Carson, and that was more than a few years ago. To compensate for this, Hanagan does have a very healthy retainer, but it looks like his designs on being leading jockey are no more. He will of course have the privilege of riding the Maktoum horses in all the big money races all over the racing world, which looks a very appealing task.
Willie Buick, good rider that he is, is well connected to the important yard of John Gosden, and, while he will get some prestige winners, it looks like he could not be considered as a serious challenger for the winning pennant.
Silvestre de Sousa is a different kettle of fish however, coming across as a real journeyman rider, who works very hard for winners up and down the country. This talented jockey, if he keeps shunting in the winners, is now the only realistic danger to leaders Hughes and Moore, although the time element is not on his side in his winning quest. While Ryan Moore would be a popular winner in Britain, few would begrudge Richard Hughes at last reaching the goal of champion . Last year he was going very well coming into the last month, but in quick succession suffered a riding suspension, and then a niggling injury, both of which served to effectively take him out of the title race for last season. Could 2012 at last be Richard Hughes turn on the rostrum?
This weekend, I will concentrate on the high standard Newbury meeting, and start on Friday with the St Hugh's Stakes, where Sandreamer stands out in a good race. The one for the forecast here is Miss Diva, from the Hannon yard.
The Monem H/cap can go to Byton, with Frankie, on Delft, also finishing well.
In a very open Maiden, Bana Wu, who has a choice of engagements, should be too good for these, with Cecil's Isatis also in the picture. On to Newbury again on Saturday, where Snowboarder can win the Denford Stakes, with the O'Brien trained Kingston Jamaica a danger to all. In the Freer Stakes, Leger winner Masked Marvel can open this season's account, but has the recent winner Cavalryman to beat, while, in the Group Two race, Aljamaheer can win for the Maktoum's, with Henry Cecil's Chaicmadee appealing as a very live danger. It looks like another umbrella weekend, so, good hunting!
The Selection Box
Fri: Newb:- 3-25--Sandreamer, 4-00--Byton, 4-30--Bana Wu.
Sat:- Newb:- 2-00--Snowboarder, 2-30--Masked Marvel, 3-05--Aljamaheer.