The theory that the jockeys' championship is nowadays a brute measure of stamina and consistency, rather than a proof of essential class, has this week been roundly rejected by the Maktoum family. On Tuesday, they hired Silvestre De Sousa to ride for Godolphin; and yesterday Sheikh Hamdan filled his impending vacancy, as retained jockey, with the only man to top De Sousa in last year's standings. For Paul Hanagan, the appointment is a gratifying breakthrough even after consecutive titles in 2010 and 2011, which had seemed to consummate long, uncomplaining service away from the big stage.
Both Hanagan and De Sousa have hitherto plied their trade largely on the northern circuit, where their promotion will be warmly received as evidence of the standards and professionalism required by sheer accumulation of winners, at any level.
At the same time, the fact that each will be entering regular competition in Group One and Classic races at the age of 31 – Hanagan's solitary winner at the elite level remains Wootton Bassett, in the 2010 Prix Lagadère – testifies to the present lack of emerging young talent in Britain. Nobody, however, will dispute they have earned their chance.
De Sousa was a late starter on these shores, of course, after arriving from Brazil. It was, perhaps, evidence of lingering naivety to disclose, as he did to a newspaper in the UAE, that he had a choice between both posts before opting for the Godolphin one. Regardless, Sheikh Hamdan and his advisers have decided that Hanagan's cool equanimity when the heat was suddenly on, as a title contender, will serve him equally well in the relatively unfamiliar crucible of international racing. Hanagan takes over from Richard Hills when he retires after next month's Dubai World Cup.
Richard Fahey, who has employed Hanagan since his arrival at his yard as a teenager, hopes that the new role will dovetail sufficiently with his own runners to make a new stable jockey unnecessary. It seems unlikely, however, that Hanagan will persevere with the notorious demands of a title defence, and Ladbrokes eased him from 7-2 to 6-1. Richard Hughes, Kieren Fallon and Ryan Moore now share 4-1 favouritism.
Hanagan went to break the news to his mentor on Wednesday night. "It was very emotional," he said. "I definitely would not be in this position but for Richard – I owe him so much."
A challenging week for the British Horseracing Authority, meanwhile, continued with the decision of its disciplinary panel to warn off George Promodou, a small-time Norfolk trainer, for no fewer than eight years for fraudulent practice with regard to two runners at Lingfield in January 2010.
With so much happening, the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival has yet to gather momentum. Some big names will, depressingly, be dropping out over the next 18 days, but it was no surprise yesterday when Grandouet defected from the Stan James Champion Hurdle given that he had surgery this week.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Fortification (Warwick 3.45) Given a break since disappointing last time out, and had previously looked much improved for this trainer.
Magic Prospect (4.10 Sandown) Handicapper has been fairly indulgent after an impressive win at Taunton last time, his first start in a tongue-tie.
One to watch
Decoy (David Pipe) Travelled well for a long way when tried over 3m at Doncaster last week and will presumably be dropped in trip at the Festival.
Where the money's going
Galileo's Choice is 7-1 from 8-1 with the sponsors for the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.