ADRIAN MAGUIRE and Richard Dunwoody today resume their Tom and Jerry routine, the one in which the rivalry stays friendly until suddenly it turns into open combat.
The two jockeys put on a barnstorming contest for last season's jumps title, Dunwoody clinching it through a relentless pursuit of Maguire, who had built a long lead. Only at the very last meeting, Market Rasen on 4 June, was the duel finally decided - 197 winners to 194.
At 4.35 this afternoon, at Bangor-on-Dee, the head-to- head starts all over again. There will be smiles all round - the two are genuine friends - but each one's will to win the title is so intense that, out on the track, conflict could never be far away.
Hostilities broke out, most memorably, in what should have been a most forgettable selling race at Nottingham on 1 March. But as the field closed on the second last hurdle, Dunwoody, in the lead on Raggerty, glimpsed Maguire, on Mr Geneaology, moving up swiftly to challenge on the inside.
Dunwoody's astonishing response was to barge his rival's mount off the track. Maguire and Mr Geneaology smashed through the rails by the wing of the hurdle, narrowly avoiding injury.
That blood-rush cost Dunwoody a 14-day ban for intentional interference, a punishment magnified by the fact that it ruled him out of the Cheltenham Festival. Later that same day, on the road home, the two friends stopped for a drink and one of their regular chats.
At Market Rasen 55 days ago, after the final race, a drained Dunwoody told reporters he would not want to go through such an exhausting season again. In fact, there are already indications that his rivalry with Maguire may be just as intense in the coming months.
Robert Parsons, who took over as Dunwoody's agent in January, confirmed yesterday: 'Richard still doesn't want to work as hard as he did last time, he wants to enjoy the sport more.' Parsons added, perhaps ominously, 'at the same time he also wants very much to remain champion.'
Who will triumph next June? Ladbrokes make Maguire a 4-5 favourite, with Dunwoody at evens, and 25-1 and above any other jockey.
Jamie Osborne, the rider who finished third in last season's title race, with 105 wins, takes a sharply different view from the bookmakers. 'Frankly, I don't think Adrian will see which way Richard went.
'Last season was unbelievable. They each rode nearly 200 winners and it will be a real battle again. Looking at it objectively, though, Richard's season stuttered along in the early stages last time, especially with Martin Pipe getting away to a slow start.
'This time Richard will be quicker off the mark. He is the one to beat and will be incredibly hard to stop.'
Osborne credits Dave Roberts, agent for the 22-year-old Maguire, as an impetus of the heightened struggle for the jump jockeys' title. Roberts' skill at supplying his man with numerous mounts from outside stables put great pressure on 30-year-old Dunwoody, who had taken the 1992-93 title with ease.
'What Dave Roberts started doing made such a difference, made it so much more competitive,' Osborne said. 'Both Adrian and Richard had around 900 rides last season, which is unheard of.
'When Scu (Peter Scudamore) was champion, it was usually with around 500 rides. John Francome had over 500 mounts in only one of his championship years.'
Significantly, Roberts has booked Maguire for a maximum 11 mounts in the 12 races at Bangor today and Newton Abbot tomorrow (one race is for apprentice riders only). The pressure is on Dunwoody again.Reuse content