The warm reception Joe Fanning received from his fellow jockeys after he won the Gold Cup on Subjectivist at Royal Ascot spoke volumes of how much he is respected by his peers.
There was a mass exodus from the weighing room into the parade ring to greet the 50-year-old after his finest hour. Jockeys young and old, male and female, came out in force to applaud one of the quietest in their ranks.
Quiet, he may be – but at work during a race, Fanning is a fierce and well-respected competitor.
He does not shout his talents or exploits from the rooftops. He just goes about his job in a dedicated manner.
“I was surprised by the reception. They are a great bunch of lads. It was nice. It’s great to come here and win,” he said.
“To come to Royal Ascot and have any winner is nice, but to win the Gold Cup is very nice. It’s a very good race.”
Fanning did not ride Subjectivist in his first nine races, but has been aboard him for every one of his last eight.
The Dublin-born horseman has very much found the key to the new staying sensation and he took the crown in style from Stradivarius, who endured a nightmare passage in his bid to join Yeats as a four-time winner.
“He’s a horse that used to be a little bit keen, it’s best not to complicate things with him. If there’s no pace stride on with him, if there is pace just let him settle wherever he wants,” said Fanning.
“I always felt if the race collapsed in front, I’d let him stride on and I wouldn’t be clever on him.”
The horse had not run since winning the Dubai Gold Cup in March – but Fanning had not forgotten how impressive he was that day and employed similar tactics.
“In Dubai, the race collapsed and I took it up,” he explained.
“The plan was if he wanted to roll on, I’d let him roll on.”
Though he was well clear in the straight, Fanning – who was presented with his trophy by the Princess Royal – did not take victory for granted.
“Even in the final furlong I was cautious something might come and challenge,” he said.
“There were some good horses in there, but I thought it would take a good one to come by me because I filled him up before the straight. I had plenty of horse under me and it took me a long time to pull him up.
“I was confident, but cautious as well.”
As for his enduring 30-year relationship with Mark Johnston and his Kingsley House stables in Middleham, Fanning said: “He’s a great man to ride for and Charlie (Johnston, son) is there now and the staff have been there years. It’s a great team. I’ve been there a lot of years now.
“I think I had a couple of winners for Mark in 1991 and went full-time in 1995.
“It’s great for the yard and Dr Jim (Walker, owner), who has been a brilliant owner with us for years.”
It was a first Gold Cup for Fanning, but a fourth for Johnston, after Double Trigger (in 1995) and two with Royal Rebel (2001 and 2002).
Johnston praised Fanning for the ride he gave the horse.
“I was happy throughout,” he said. “We never tell to jockey to lead. It’s about going the pace that suits our horse and Joe is the master at it and when he sat in second and relaxed with the horse giving a beautiful lead in front it was perfect.
“With half a mile to go he was entering new territory, but you could see he hadn’t asked the horse for any effort yet. He gave him a beautiful ride round.
“Everybody talks about Steve Cauthen as a great front-running jockey, and I always put Jason Weaver up in the same sort of league, although he wasn’t around for so long, but I don’t think there’s anybody better than Joe Fanning. He is absolutely perfect at setting the pace.
“People kept saying is he going to lead today, is he not going to lead today? However many thousands of runners Joe’s had for us, we never tell him where he’s got to be in the field, and it was just a perfect pace all the way around.”