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Paul Hanagan will replace Richard Hills as Sheikh Hamdan's No1 rider 23/02/2012
Chris Cook
• Champion jockey lands new post for prominent owner
• Rider will keep connection with trainer Richard Fahey

Paul Hanagan will take over as first rider to the owner Hamdan al-Maktoum on the retirement of Richard Hills at the end of next month, it was announced on Thursday.

For the jockey, who has been champion in each of the last two years, the appointment represents a longed-for chance to compete in the best races rather than travelling to whichever remote racecourse offers the prospect of most winners on a particular day.

It was "an offer I couldn't resist", Hanagan said, adding that his new situation was just "starting to sink in". "The one thing that swung it for me really was the history of Sheikh Hamdan's horses and hopefully we can keep it going."

Hanagan gave particular thanks to the trainer Richard Fahey, for whom he has been riding since he was 17, saying: "It was quite emotional when I went round to see him last night." He hopes to continue taking rides for the Yorkshire-based Fahey when his new job allows.

"There were plenty of people saying, 'He's twice champion jockey but he's only ridden one Group One winner'. I want to improve the quality of horse that I ride."

That theme was picked up by Hanagan's agent, Richard Hale, who said: "He'll be riding good horses in good races and it's a chance to answer those people who say, 'He rides lots of winners but can he do it in the Group races?' You still hear that but Paul Hanagan won't be letting anyone down."

Bookmakers took the view that the news makes Hanagan less likely to retain his title as champion jockey, Ladbrokes pushing him out to 6-1 from 7-2, and Hale accepted that as reasonable.

"You've managed to win it twice by single-figure margins by controlling your own destiny every day, whereas now you'll still get a lot of winners but it won't be so easy to cherry-pick the four-timers at Musselburgh. You'll have to go where your runners are and it changes the whole dynamics of it.

"He certainly doesn't want to get on that treadmill again. At the end of last season he was like Steve Redgrave when he said, 'If I get back in that boat you can shoot me'."

The race to be this year's champion now appears wide open, with Silvestre de Sousa, runner-up last year, having limited his chances by signing up with Godolphin this week. Ryan Moore and Richard Hughes are now joint-favourites at best odds of 4-1, with Kieren Fallon, who recently turned 47, a 9-2 shot.

Silvestre de Sousa was the man most heavily backed to succeed Richard Hills as the principal jockey to Sheikh Hamdan when one bookmaker offered odds on Sunday. Paddy Power's market was open for less than 90 minutes, during which time De Sousa was cut from 7-2 to 6-4 before further support prompted the firm to suspend trading.

Fallon's agent, Terry Norman, responded to the news of Hanagan's appointment by saying: "Kieren is going to give the title challenge one more go. The difference is that we will start the assault from April rather than wait until May. I'm not sure whether we will have enough firepower but the decision is to give it 100% for one more season." .

The trainer George Prodromou has been warned off for eight years at the end of the latest corruption investigation by the British Horseracing Authority, while four gamblers were warned off for indefinite periods. Prodromou was found to have instructed the jockey Charlotte Kerton not to ride two horses on their merits and to have shared details of his plans with the gamblers, who profited by laying those horses.

Prodromou said he had done nothing wrong and would appeal. Kerton was not warned off, having apparently given up her riding career in Britain, but the BHA will not accept a licence application from her for six years.
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