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Are Ballydoyle even looking to fill the void?

So who will be the next stable jockey at Ballydoyle? It's a burning question that is going to be discussed around the racing world on a daily basis until Johnny Murtagh's successor is announced.

Pat Smullen unsurprisingly ruled himself out of the running yesterday. It was impossible to see the champion jockey elect leave his enviable position at Dermot Weld's Rosewell House where both parties have been so loyal to each other since Michael Kinane moved from that post.

Clearly it is difficult to have your name mentioned in line with arguably the best job in Flat racing and have to dismiss it from the running, but Smullen has enjoyed much success of his own with Weld and that will now continue.

Christophe Soumillon, the charismatic and controversial French-based Belgian has now become the new bookies favourite for the vacancy.

Soumillon enjoyed a seven-season stint as the retained jockey to His Highness Aga Khan in France from 2002 until 2009 before the relationship was severed after comments made by the jockey -- something that may stand against him when the powers that be at Coolmore sit to discuss their future number one.

After Soumillon is Kieren Fallon (pictured right), who has been very popular in the betting with William Hill and is now as short as 7/2 to return to base himself in Tippeary.

Coolmore stood shoulder to shoulder with Fallon and supported him all through his famous trial at the Old Bailey when he was accused of race-fixing and he was employed once this season by O'Brien when riding Viscount Nelson in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.


It would be a sensational move for Fallon if he was to return to that particular hotseat, and maybe he would feel that if the job was offered that he has some unfinished business to attend to. However, he may be more determined to silence his critics across the water and give the jockeys' championship a real go in the UK next season.

Could it then be possible that Coolmore and Ballydoyle go against the grain somewhat and try a season without a retained jockey?

That may sound like a ludicrous suggestion, but it is reported that Johnny Murtagh hadn't been to Ballydoyle to ride work for the last two months or so -- meaning that O'Brien doesn't hold huge importance of his stable jockey being on site on a constant basis.

Maybe Ballydoyle might employ a best-available policy. Colm O'Donoghue is another popular choice amongst punters.

Both he and Seamie Heffernan are well able to step up and may prove to work alongside the likes of Soumillon and Ryan Moore when they are available.

Moore is rumoured to have been approached about the position and turned it down although it is admittedly hard to believe the approach, it would be easy to see why he is happy to stay put with Michael Stoute.

O'Brien's son, Joseph, is surely too young and still too inexperienced to hold such a job.

Bets on this market are void if a new stable jockey isn't announced by the end of 2011 by a Ballydoyle official statement.

Don't expect Fallon returning, be surprised if it's Soumillon that makes the move, and don't be surprised if the bets are void.