Perfect Power prevailed in a blanket finish to the Norfolk Stakes as Paul Hanagan recorded an emotional success at Royal Ascot.
Trained in North Yorkshire by Richard Fahey, the son of first-season sire Ardad only got off the mark at Hamilton eight days ago.
The field split into two groups, with Go Bears Go making a bold bid on the far side looking to give David Loughnane his second winner at the meeting after taking the closing race on Tuesday, while Wesley Ward’s Lucci led the other group.
Perfect Power had plenty to do entering the final furlong, but coming widest of all in the stands side group, he began to hit top gear as close to the rail Project Dante, another northern raider, was also making gains.
Go Bears Go was still in front on the far side and had seen off Cadamosto, as it became a case of which group would come out on top.
There was nothing in it as the juveniles flashed by the post, but Perfect Power (14-1) just got the verdict by head from Go Bears Go, with the Bryan Smart-trained Project Dante a nose back in third.
Once the result was called, the joy was immediately evident for former champion jockey Hanagan, who only returned to the saddle in August last year after suffering a serious injury at Newcastle in February.
He said: “I think this tops the lot. The accident I had last year was a pretty bad one and I just thought I’m lucky to be here at all, never mind riding winners.
“I think early on when I was laid in hospital, I thought I was in trouble. It was only through the rehab and genuine kindness of people that I’ve got back. You just appreciate it when you get a second chance.
“This would be my main (achievement) now because I didn’t think I would get back at all. It was a bad one – I fractured my T4, T3 and T6 (vertebrae), and the T6 was crushed all together. So after operations and physio of countless days, being in a few bad places a few times, to make it back and ride a winner here – it would top the whole lot.
“I’m good friends with Freddy Tylicki and I realise what he’s been through. He’s kind of been my inspiration as well as he wasn’t as lucky as me. I found great inspiration from him, I’ve got a second chance and it didn’t happen for Freddy. I just appreciate the chance that I have got.
“It’s so nice to see the crowds back – what a buzz. The cheer of the crowd was something special.”
Of Perfect Power, he added: “I must have asked about 10 jockeys pulling up who won! I wasn’t quite sure as they were so far away on the other side, but I think the way I finished the race, I had every chance because he really powered home.
“I thought we had a chance because he’s got such a good temperament, I think he takes it all in which you really need at Ascot because there were a few down there getting warm. He was very laid back.”
Fahey has long been a close ally of Hanagan, with the pair enjoying many big days together.
He said: “It’s a special moment for everybody and this has been a bit of a bogey race for us, we’ve been second in it a few times – when they flashed past I thought we’d got beat again.
“It took a while (to be announced) but anyway, we got there in the end. I was emotional for about two seconds, I must be getting emotional in my old age!
“Any winner here is special, but I think we are one of the longest-standing teams together. We had a little holiday (when Hanagan rode for the late Sheikh Hamdan), but I think we’re up to about 17 or 18 years now which is a long time.
“We were very sweet on the horse. He came out of Tally Ho Stud at the Breeze Ups so we haven’t had him long. Roger O’Callaghan needs to take a bit of credit for this. We took him up on the gallops on the grass and he literally destroyed some of my two-year-olds.
“He was a little unlucky first time, he missed the kick and did everything wrong, but it probably worked in our favour as it meant we got a second run into him which I thought was vital. I was quietly confident he’d run a big race, but I was looking at going over six before a long discussion with everybody.
“I haven’t thought about the future, but I’d have thought we’ll be looking at six furlongs now.”
Loughnane said of the gallant runner-up: “It’s a great run, but a little bittersweet as we won the race on the far side. We’ve always known we had a good horse on our hands and he can go anywhere.
“He’s in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh, the Gimcrack and the Mill Reef. All options are open.”
Smart was equally proud of Project Dante, saying: “He’s a proper horse and I blame myself for not getting a second run into him. I’ve always said they need to be streetwise and he was just a little bit cut off at the moment he wanted to go.
“He’s a Group horse and could be one for the Molecomb.”