Fallon out to thwart Hanagan as he defends his Flat crown

EIGHT years after he was champion jockey for a sixth time, Kieren Fallon has signalled a desire to become Flat racing's No 1 rider in 2011.

He believes his burgeoning relationship with Middleham trainer Mark Johnson could provide him with the necessary horsepower to regain the crown that was his before his career became bedevilled by controversy.

Fallon partnered 140 winners last term, seeing him finish third behind Malton's Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes in the championship battle.

The 45-year-old principally rode for Luca Cumani, but with the likes of Johnston, Mick Channon, Brian Meehan, Ed Dunlop and Sir Michael Stoute also giving him the leg up, he hopes to launch a sustained challenge.

"I had to change my agent a couple of months into the season as he didn't want to continue, and things didn't really work out as I'd hoped," said Fallon who was last champion in 2003.

"But I still rode 140 winners and finished the season well. Since Mark (Johnston) and Sir Michael started putting me up, it really built up my confidence.

"This year I'll be really hungry, probably more so than any other jockey, and I'm going to be working really hard. With Luca having a strong team, and if Mark continues to use me, then I've got every chance."

Fallon is currently based in the UAE for the Dubai International Racing Carnival and he has singled out Marinous, sixth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, as his big hope on Dubai World Cup night on March 26.

He will have a challenge in his title ambitions, however. Hanagan, the current champion, has decided not to take up an offer to ride in Japan prior to the Flat season.

While he would have welcomed the opportunity – recognition for his extraordinary title-winning efforts – visa delays meant that he would have been in the far East rather than schooling the new two-year-olds at Richard Fahey's Malton stable.

Clive Smith does not expect the extra three weeks to be a problem for Kauto Star ahead of his attempt to make history in the rearranged William Hill King George VI Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained superstar is reported in rude health by his owner ahead of his bid for a record-breaking fifth King George triumph on Saturday week.

And Menorah will step up his preparations for the Champion Hurdle next week. The six-year-old edged victory in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, before beating previously unbeaten novice Cue Card in the International Hurdle.

He will head straight to the Festival in March and his trainer Philip Hobbs, who saddled Rooster Booster to win the 2003 Champion Hurdle, could not be happier with his star hurdler.

"We were going to give him a couple of weeks walking, but after a few days he was so fresh we had to start cantering again," said Hobbs. "He's in good nick and we'll start to pick things up again with the Champion Hurdle in mind. He will not run beforehand."