As Frankie Dettori’s season-long lap of honour heads into the home straight, last week we were greeted with the news that another of flat racing’s finest would be heading into retirement. Whereas fans have had the full season to salute the affable Italian, the hugely popular Paul Hanagan provided racegoers with only three days’ notice. Announcing his retirement on the opening Wednesday of York’s Ebor Meeting, the Merseysider’s final career ride came in the opening race on the Friday card.
Time may have been short, but the newspaper column inches were soon overflowing with praise for the likeable 42-year-old, with trainers Richard Fahey and Charles Hills and weighing room colleagues Kevin Darley and Richard Kingscote amongst those paying tribute.
From Hard Working Apprentice to the Top of the Tree
Having first climbed aboard a horse at the age of 14, Warrington-born Hanagan proved to be a quick learner, which, combined with his natural talent and admirable work ethic, soon had him destined for the very top. Joining Richard Fahey in 1999, Hanagan won the Champion Apprentice title in 2002, prompting Fahey to state, “If this boy is not champion jockey one day, I will give up the game.”
Ever the shrewd judge, Fahey was to be proven correct, with Hanagan crowned Champion Jockey in 2010 and successfully defending his title in 2011 – becoming only the third Northern-based jockey to lift the title and the first to do so more than once. When all was said and done, Hanagan left the weighing room for the final time – through a thoroughly deserved guard of honour – with over 2,000 wins to his name.
Most Memorable Mounts
As with all riders, Hanagan was aided by an array of hugely talented partners on his route to the summit, with the following five, in particular, helping to put his name up in lights.
5. Wootton Bassett
- Trainer – Richard Fahey
- Peak Official Rating – 120
- Group 1 Wins – Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (2010)
This son of Iffraaj will likely forever hold a special place in the hearts of both Hanagan and trainer Richard Fahey, thanks to his flawless 2010 juvenile campaign. Winning on debut under Tony Hamilton at Ayr, Hanagan took over for subsequent wins in a novice event at Doncaster and valuable sales races at York and Doncaster. Then came the shot at the big time, as Wootton Bassett shipped over to Longchamp for a crack at the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
Bounced out into the lead by his confident rider, the colt was given an expertly judged front-running ride before powering clear in the straight, to hand trainer and jockey a first career Group 1 success.
- Trainer – Richard Fahey
- Peak Official Rating – 119
- Group 1 Wins – July Cup (2012)
No trainer contributed more to Hanagan’s success than North Yorkshire-based Richard Fahey. The man who provided the bulk of his run-of-the-mill winners during his two Championship winning seasons also regularly furnished Hanagan with rides on the biggest stages, and the rider never let his boss down.
Heading into the 2012 July Cup, few gave Mayson any chance – which was perfectly understandable considering the sprinter had been beaten by a combined total of 67 lengths in his previous two starts. None of that mattered once the gates opened, as the four-year-old discovered all of his old sparkle, to simply blow the field away.
- Trainer – William Haggas
- Peak Official Rating – 125
- Group 1 Wins – Coral-Eclipse (2014)
Trained by William Haggas in Newmarket, Mukhadram was something of a late bloomer but proved well worth the wait. Unraced at two, the son of Shamardal picked up a couple of low-level events as a three-year-old before exploding into life at four and five.
A three-time winner in Group company, his career-best effort came when slamming a quality field in the Sandown Showpiece of the Coral-Eclipse. Prior to that effort, Mukhadram had handed Hanagan the biggest payday of his career when second in the hugely valuable Dubai World Cup.
- Trainer – Charles Hills
- Peak Official Rating – 123
- Group 1 Wins – July Cup (2015), Prix Maurice de Gheest (2015), British Champions Sprint Stakes (2015)
Mayson was certainly a high-class sprinter on his day, but he wasn’t quite the speediest of Hanagan’s mounts. That honour belongs to the brilliant Muhaarar. Sired by the blisteringly quick Oasis Dream, this good-looking bay was certainly bred to be fast and had shown plenty of promise during a Group 2-winning juvenile campaign. However, it was as a three-year-old that he would cut a swathe through the sprinting division.
An initial tilt at a Classic didn’t work out when failing to stay in the French 2,000 Guineas, but the colt was to prove a different proposition entirely when dropped back to sprinting. Hanagan picked the wrong one when riding Adaay in the Commonwealth Cup but was back in the saddle for Muhaarar’s three subsequent Group 1 wins, culminating in a devastating display in the British Champions Sprint.
- Trainer – John Gosden
- Peak Official Rating – 125
- Big Race Wins – Epsom Oaks (2014), King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2014)
Hanagan spent the bulk of his career as the retained rider to the Richard Fahey yard. However, he did have a four-year break from this duty between 2012 and 2016 when he became the number one jockey to the powerful Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. Hanagan would enjoy many of his finest hours in those famous blue and white silks, with seven of his 10 career Group 1 winners provided by Sheikh Hamdan.
Muhaarar and Mukhadram likely won’t be soon forgotten by Hanagan, but Taghrooda was the greatest of them all. By the great Sea The Stars, and out of Sadler’s Wells mare, this John Gosden-trained filly had class coursing through both sides of her pedigree and delivered on that potential in spades. Rocking up at Epsom on only her third career start, that relative lack of experience proved to be no hindrance, as she powered right away to hand Hanagan his first, and only Classic success, before going on to follow up in the King George at Ascot.