Posts

Hanagan thrilled to be back in the big time

Paul Hanagan has celebrated bigger winners than Majestic Dawn’s success in the bet365 Cambridgeshire, but few victories will have provided greater satisfaction given the year he has endured.

Having come close to calling time on his glittering career after sustaining a back injury in a fall at Newcastle in February, the two-times champion jockey continued his recent resurgence in the saddle with a breakthrough first victory in the ultra-competitive handicap.

Though one for more muted celebrations, the Classic-winning rider admitted he came close to letting his emotions get the better of him after steering the Paul and Oliver Cole-trained 40-1 shot to a surprise success.

Hanagan said: “That fall was the most difficult time of my life. You just know when it’s a bad one. The scariest moment for me was I couldn’t get up. I struggled to breathe and that’s when I knew it was serious.

“I’m not one for getting emotional, but when I was being interviewed on television after winning, I thought ‘oh no, I’m going to go here in a minute’, which I shouldn’t be ashamed of, but it was a massive thing in my life, that fall. Winning today was pretty emotional.

“It was very special. I was six months out with the injury and I didn’t think I was going to make it back at all. To bag one like that is quite special. I’m absolutely delighted.”

Recovery was a slow process for Hanagan, but taking inspiration from his close friend and former rider Freddy Tylicki, as well as his own desire to return, has helped him come through those dark days and emerge on the other side.

He added: “I’m best mates with Freddy Tylicki and it kind of hits home how lucky I am, as he wasn’t so lucky after a life-changing fall. It’s people like him that have given me inspiration. The likes of Freddy have been amazing.

“I was in so much pain and just constantly struggling to get out of bed and because of Covid and the lockdown, I couldn’t get any help. Jack Berry House was brilliant doing a video link, but it is not the same as seeing people in person.

“What it really came down to was the operation. The specialist was amazing and it was a flick of the switch after that. It was then a case of do I really want it? But the hunger was there more than ever.”

Returning from any injury requires the support of others, and Hanagan, who is fast closing in on riding 2,000 British winners, is grateful to several people who helped get his career back on track.

He added: “The support I’ve had has been amazing. I can’t speak highly enough of Jack Berry House, which is on my doorstep in Malton. Without the support of them, I don’t think I would have made it.

“My agent Richard Hale never gets a mention, but I’ve been with him since I was 16 or 17 and I turned 40 last week, so it speaks volumes for the guy as he has been there from day one.

“I think the sport we are in is a great sport and everyone comes together when you have a bad time.”

While Hanagan may be in the later stages of his career, he hopes his return to the saddle can act as an inspiration to others that may be struggling for confidence or have been in a similar position to that he faced earlier this year.

He added: “The first couple of weeks were hard, just getting that race and match fitness back again, but once I got over those first two weeks, things have flown.

“To win a race like this maybe shows people who are going through a hard time you have the support out there to get back, and if you really want something, you can do it.”

Dawn delivers with clear-cut Cambridgeshire verdict

Majestic Dawn caused a 40-1 shock as he turned the bet365 Cambridgeshire into a procession under Paul Hanagan.

Fifth in the race 12 months ago, he was back again off just a 3lb higher mark, but he had only had one run this season when last of 10 at Kempton.

Majestic Dawn was wearing first-time blinkers and Hanagan took the race by the scruff of the neck at the halfway point in the nine-furlong heat.

Hanagan kicked into what would prove to be an unassailable advantage and on entering the final furlong, it was clear the leader would not be caught, as Paul and Oliver Cole’s four-year-old maintained his gallop right through the line to win by four and three-quarter lengths.

There was a blanket finish for second, with Lucander just ahead of Bell Rock and 100-1 chance You’re Hired in fourth.

Oliver Cole said: “We always thought he was a very good horse and last year he finished fifth in this race.

“All year we’ve had all sorts of little problems. We ran him at Kempton a few days ago, just to get a bit of work into him really and he came last, but it obviously put him straight!

“I still can’t believe it to be honest, it’s a real shock. I couldn’t be happier for the owners and the staff at home – it’s a great thrill. We’re very lucky.”

Hanagan, who was almost forced to quit following a back injury he suffered in February, said: “I’m lost for words.

“It was a long road back to fitness, so this is a special winner. I owe the comeback to so many people.

“I don’t think you’ll see many Cambridgeshires won like that. He was just very happy. We got the rail, he was a little bit keen, so I took him away from the others then he relaxed.

“After that, I just pointed him.”

Haggas launches double assault on Cambridgeshire

William Haggas has two runners in his bid to win the bet365 Cambridgeshire for the first time at Newmarket on Saturday.

Seven days on from combining to land the Ayr Gold Cup with Nahaarr, Haggas and in-form jockey Tom Marquand team up with Sinjaari, who won the John Smith’s Cup at York on his only previous start this season in mid-July.

Haggas also saddles Montatham, who reverts to handicap company under Jim Crowley after finishing second in a Listed contest at Sandown recently, however, Ilaraab, the scheduled mount of Cieren Fallon, does not run.

Haggas said: “It might be asking a bit much of Sinjaari to win a John Smith’s Cup and a Cambridgeshire, but he’s very well and I’m very happy with him.

“He’s down in trip so there’s always a concern, but there aren’t many options for these good handicappers – they can run in Listed races and win £15,000, or wait for big pots like this. They may as well run for the big money.

“Montatham is going up in trip a bit, but he will love the cut in the ground and he’s very well, he’s been running well all year.

“They’ve both got decent chances, but I’m not convinced they are drawn on the right side. You’d hope with two to be spread across the track, but they are in two (Montatham) and six (Sinjaari) and having walked the track, the draw could scupper them, but there’s nothing I can do about that.”

The Roger Charlton-trained Tempus bids to make it three from three for the year in the hands of Jason Watson.

A winner at Newbury in August on what was his first appearance in 10 months, the Kingman colt readily followed up at Ascot three weeks ago and carries a 4lb penalty for that victory as he goes in search of the hat-trick.

“He was a nice horse last season, but he has progressed really nicely,” said Watson.

Tempus (left) has been progressing nicely for Roger Charlton
Tempus (left) has been progressing nicely for Roger Charlton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He had a long time off before running at Newbury and we were expecting him to need the run. He was mightily impressive at Ascot the last day and I believe he will come on for that again.

“My only concern would be the track as it is unique and not to the liking of every horse. That’s going to be the test for him as he has only really raced on nice, galloping tracks so far.

“I do think he has the class to hopefully overcome that. To me, he still has improvement left in him and the more rain that falls, the more it will help him.”

Ralph Beckett believes the demands of the race will bring out the best in Lucander, who won three times last season and opened his account for the current campaign at York last month.

Beckett said: “It was a good effort to win at York and he seems to like these big-field handicaps.

“I was always keen on the idea of the Cambridgeshire for him. The nature of the race will suit him really well.”

Sir Busker was narrowly beaten by Montatham on his penultimate start at York, before chasing home Century Dream in the Group Two Celebration Mile at Goodwood.

William Knight’s stable star must carry 9st 11lb on his return to a handicap, but connections are nevertheless hopeful he will run another big race.

Sam Hoskins, racing manager for owner Kennett Valley Thoroughbreds, said: “We’re really pleased with him at home and he’s a big horse, so he should be able to carry the weight.

Sir Busker won the Silver Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot
Sir Busker won the Silver Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot (Edward Whitaker/PA)

“Obviously there are a lot of young improvers who we’ll have to give weight to. We’re hopefully weighted to reverse placings with Montatham from their York form. Sir Busker has since run second in a Group Two, and Montatham was second at Sandown.

“He’s in great form. It’s a big task to try to win such a prestigious handicap off a mark of 111, but you never know. He’s a highly progressive horse and we’ll keep our fingers crossed – he’ll love the fast pace.”

Other hopefuls include Roger Varian’s Fifth Position, the Andrew Balding-trained Bell Rock and Al Rufaa from John Gosden’s yard.

Of the latter, Frankie Dettori told his Sporting Index blog: “I’ve won the Cambridgeshire three times and all three times I think I had Group horses in Halling, Wissahickon and Lord North.

“We don’t know if Al Ruffa is quite as good as those yet, but I certainly hope so. He’s a three-year-old who could improve further, but he’s got plenty of weight for what he’s done so far.

“He didn’t give his best running last time and it’s a wide-open race, but he’s still lightly-raced so fingers crossed.

“We’re drawn 22 and hopefully that’s the side that’s up with the pace, because sometimes you can win your half of the race and still finish 10 lengths behind!”