Paul Hanagan: Aiming to take advantage of De Sousa’s trip Down Under

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I THOUGHT last year’s championship race with Richard Hughes was close. It could be even tighter this year as we prepare to enter the closing days of the season.

My weighing room colleague Silvestre de Sousa had a brilliant day on Wednesday, scoring three winners. That reduced my lead to five as we started yesterday’s racing.

We’ll both be doing everything we can to find winners today and tomorrow. Then Silvestre takes Monday and Tuesday off to go Down Under for the Melbourne Cup. That gives me a free run at meetings for two days before he returns.

Kieren Fallon, who has been champion jockey six times, is still in pursuit. However, he is a little further back, and is not only going to Australia but also to the Breeders’ Cup in the United States at the end of next week.

The British season closes at Doncaster on Saturday, November 5 and I hope that I will be able to enjoy it as much as I did at the corresponding fixture a year ago when I was crowned champion jockey.

I’m riding at two meetings today – Newmarket this afternoon and then at the floodlit all-weather track in Wolverhampton in the evening. Tomorrow, I’m off over the Scottish border to Ayr.

I start off at headquarters on a couple of debutants for Newmarket trainer and Yorkshireman-in-exile William Haggas. In truth, they could be anything. You never know how a two-year-old will react to a first run on a racecourse, but any Haggas horse has to be respected.

The horse that I would highlight this afternoon is Billyrayvalentine in the conditions stakes at 4.45pm. A winner at Sandown and Folkestone of late, I think he should take all the beating. The threat would be from Godolphin horse Zabeel Park which is coming back after a long lay-off.

Just Lille, which has won her last two runs including the sportingbet.com Claiming Stakes at York back in May, wouldn’t be without a chance either in the 3.35pm race.

Then it’s off to Wolves where I take two rides. The one I am going for principally is Violent Velocity in the 8.40pm handicap. He won a week ago at Doncaster, and he was a winner for me earlier in the season at Beverley.

There will be interesting racing conditions at Ayr on Saturday. It’s been so wet there recently that the races are taking place on the hurdles track – without the obstacles obviously!

A lot will depend on how horses that have been running on good to firm going on turf or standard going on the all-weather cope with a soft surface.

I think Docs Legacy, which I won on at Wolverhampton a week ago, is my best chance. That’s in the 1.50pm race. It’s all down to how he handles the ground.

At the end of Saturday afternoon, I’ll have a look at how Silvestre has got on at Newmarket where he rides before going to Melbourne. Sunday is a day off for the Flat in Britain, so I will then prepare for the final six days of the season. I’ve been in this position before 12 months ago, and I’ll be doing my utmost to retain my title.

Racing has finished for 2011 at York and returns on May 16, 2012. Visit www.yorkracecourse.co.uk to find out the 17 fixtures and ticket details.